Mobile App REFUNITE Is Timely Help For Syria’s 11 Million-Plus Displaced People


(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Right now, there are an estimated 51.2 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, families are torn apart every day due to conflict, famine and disaster. Syria’s civil war is the worst humanitarian disaster of our time, with an estimated 11 million-plus people currently displaced. A large percentage of Syrians have lost contact with family members or friends in their flight; many of us have seen the heartbreaking media images of Syrian refugees in Hungry where families are split apart. Mothers from their children and children from their parents. The odds of a reunion are slim for many. This is why a mobile app called REFUNITE is crucial. REFUNITE is a not-for-profit organisation with a clear mission to reconnect refugee families across the globe with missing loved ones. It’s a partnership with Ericsson, a mobile network operator and the United Nations to help reunite families.

When families are separated, the app helps put them back in touch by empowering refugees to take the search for missing loved ones into their own hands, either through a mobile phone, a computer or one of its free help lines. It maintains an anonymous database of more than 405,000 users, where new users searching for a loved one are asked detailed information about people they are trying to find. The database can be searched according to someone’s hometown or any other relevant personal information. Users may then receive information about possible matches through either its text messages, or the app’s website or by calling a toll-free hotline. The platform is built to be simple, to ensure that any type of cell phone, not just smartphones, can be used to access it.

The story behind REFUNITE is poignant. It was founded by brothers David and Christopher Mikkelsen, who met Mansour, a young Afghan refugee, in 2005. Sadly, Mansour had lost contact with his parents and five siblings during the family’s escape from Kabul and the Taliban. When crossing into Pakistan, a human trafficker tore the family members apart. Mansour spent four months on a dangerous journey through Russia and across Eastern Europe, where he eventually found his way to Copenhagen, where he met the Mikkelsen brothers.

In helping Mansour find his family, the brothers realised that existing family tracing programs lacked any collaborative technology. The paperwork process that was used meant little information was shared across agencies, borders or across conflicts. Eventually, one of Mansour’s younger brothers was located in a small city in Southern Russia, and the David and Christopher helped reunite the two in Moscow after six years of separation. It was then they both knew they had to find a better way to help the world’s hundreds of thousands of refugees who desperately wanted to reconnect with long-lost relatives and friends. In 2008, they launched REFUNITE.

Today, this wonderful app is a lifeline with huge international support. Its partner organisations include the UNHCR, the International Rescue Committee and other agencies that help register displaced people living in camps. 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia