Ericsson uses technology for good to help reconnect refugees worldwide

Press release
Jun 20, 2011 07:00 (GMT +00:00)
Photo of Elaine Weidman
  • Mobile communication brings hope to separated refugees
  • Multi-country mobile-industry campaign empowers refugees to search and reconnect with lost loved ones using mobile devices
  • Ericsson responds to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) "1" campaign

With more than 42 million refugees in the world, many affected by political conflict and natural disasters, the added desperation of being separated from their family and friends without feasible means of tracing them can only compound their suffering.

In response to a call from UNHCR to "do 1 thing" to support refugees, Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) is leading an industry initiative to use technology as a force for good in support of the refugee cause.

Today - World Refugee Day - Ericsson, Refugees United and UNHCR are launching a multi-country campaign with mobile operators to extend the use of mobile services to facilitate global efforts to reconnect separated refugees. 

This campaign includes the use of the latest Android app technology to extend the reach of the Refugees United service - enabling millions more refugees to use sms, mobile-enabled browsing (wireless application protocol or WAP) and the Android market to find their loved ones.

The Refugees United platform enables refugees to use mobile phones to register and search for loved ones via an anonymous database, and subsequently to connect using SMS or the internet.

Christopher Mikkelsen, Managing Director, Refugees United, says: "In our mission to help refugees searching for loved ones, the mobile phone is the link to the people we're working to help. Coupled with the right information, a simple handheld device becomes a powerful connector in even the remotest of places. This partnership will enable us to reach, and reconnect, countless separated families across Africa."

António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, says: "UNHCR is pleased to join with Ericsson to broaden the availability of the Refugees United application to a number of markets, in both the developed and developing world. Helping refugees locate their loved ones using mobile text messages and mobile internet is one of the many ways in which technology is changing our world and helping people reconnect. Ensuring this is done in a way that respects the privacy and security of individual refugees, UNHCR is proud to participate in this pioneering and highly successful initiative."

The recent pilot of the mobile services in Uganda, involving Ericsson, pan-African operator Mobile Telephone Networks (MTN) and UNHCR has now developed into a multi-country agreement to deploy the service across Africa. Since the launch of the service in September 2010, 41,000 refugees have registered. Among these are cousins Abdulahi Hussein Sheikh and Mohamed Ali Salah who were separated in 1991 when fleeing the troubles in Somalia and have since found each other through the service after 20 years without contact.

In addition, Ericsson is launching the service in Kenya with Safaricom, and in Sweden and Denmark with the operator 3.

Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Ericsson, says: "We are building on our commitment to register 120,000 refugees by the end of the year with the launch of the Android app. Adding more countries through our operator partners and enabling access on multiple platforms will help us to achieve this goal, and help break down the obstacles to the reunification of refugees by using technology for good."

Notes to editors:

Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, Ericsson, David Mikkelsen, Co-founder of Refugee United and Mads Mikkelsen, Goodwill Ambassador for Refugees United will be available at 4pm CET at the UNHCR tent at Stockholm Central Station for interviews and comments. The Android app is available via Android Market. Please do not register unless you are seeking a lost person.

News release from December 22, 2010: Mobile SMS application to help millions of refugees reconnect with loved ones:

News release from December 22nd 2010: Mobile SMS application to help millions of refugees reconnect with loved ones:

News release from September 23rd 2010, with video: Refugees United: how mobility reunites families:

Press release from September 22nd 2010: Mobile Application Reconnects Refugees with Loved Ones:

World Refugee Day 2011
June 20 is World Refugee Day. To mark the occasion and this year's 60th anniversary of the UN Refugee Convention on 28 July, UNHCR is launching a six-month campaign aimed at promoting public awareness of the stories of individual refugees and other forcibly displaced people. The campaign features a number of media products including a video by UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie, a new online video experience called "1 Life, 1 Story" in which refugees tell their own stories, and related publicity materials inviting members of the public to get involved and Do 1 Thing to help refugees, such as follow UNHCR on Facebook and Twitter. UNHCR is inviting media organizations to also engage and support the campaign via their news and blog sites. For interested media organizations, online digital banners are available for this purpose. Join us in letting others know that even one person forced to flee war or persecution, is one too many.

About United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people. In more than five decades, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives. Today, a staff of some 6,600 people in more than 110 countries continues to help about 34 million persons.

About Refugees United:
Refugees United is a not-for-profit organization working to help reconnect separated refugee families. Using web and mobile technologies, the organization has created a platform of collaboration for refugee organizations and refugees themselves, where information on families separated can be uploaded, shared and used to reconnect families across borders and conflicts. Refugees wishing to remain anonymous can choose to register with nicknames or other non-sensitive information they are comfortable in sharing with the world.
Since moving to a predominantly mobile platform in Sept. 2010, Refugees United and partners have helped more than 41,000 refugees in search of missing family come on the platform, with more than 4,500 new refugees signing up every month.

Our multimedia content is available at the broadcast room:


Ericsson is the world's leading provider of technology and services to telecom operators. Ericsson is the leader in 2G, 3G and 4G mobile technologies, and provides support for networks with over 2 billion subscribers and has the leading position in managed services. The company's portfolio comprises mobile and fixed network infrastructure, telecom services, software, broadband and multimedia solutions for operators, enterprises and the media industry. The Sony Ericsson and ST-Ericsson joint ventures provide consumers with feature-rich personal mobile devices. 

Ericsson is advancing its vision of being the "prime driver in an all-communicating world" through innovation, technology, and sustainable business solutions. Working in 180 countries, more than 90,000 employees generated revenue of SEK 203.3 billion (USD 28.2 billion) in 2010. Founded in 1876 with the headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, Ericsson is listed on NASDAQ OMX, Stockholm and NASDAQ New York.


Ericsson Corporate Public & Media Relations
Phone: +46 10 719 69 92

Anne Mette Jespersen, Refugees United
Phone: +45 7020 4181