World Refugee Day: Digital information platform for refugees and migrants launches in Italy

Rome/Geneva, 20 June 2017 – A new digital platform launched on World Refugee Day (20 June) in Italy will put critical and relevant information in the hands of vulnerable migrants and refugees.

The “Virtual Volunteer” – a mobile friendly web application developed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and IBM – helps people migrating access reliable and practical information and support wherever they are. Virtual Volunteer has already been rolled out in Greece and Sweden where it has been used by 30,000 people.

Virtual Volunteer fills a missing piece in the global response to migration,” said Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Under Secretary General for Programmes and Operations. “People moving are often caught in a fog of poor information. They don’t always know what services are available to them. This is a tool that will help give them a clearer view so that they can make informed decisions.

The platform shows in real time the services provided by the Red Cross and other organizations, including outpatient clinics and maternal health centres, as well as places people can access free legal assistance and psychological support. It uses the geolocation of users to ensure that the information is relevant.

Safe points

It will also alert people to the three Italian Red Cross Safe Points in Catania, Trapani and Cagliari. Safe points are spaces run by volunteers where migrants can find further information and assistance, and access health and legal services.

Users will also find detailed information about Restoring Family Links services that can help them search for and connect with members of their family.

“The use of technology is crucial in humanitarian action,” said Francesco Rocca, President of the Italian Red Cross. “Information saves lives. Ensuring that people can access unbiased, factual information has a big impact.”

Thousands of people continue to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe. Most of those who reach Europe report having been detained in Libya, with many having experienced or seen beatings, abuse, sexual violence and forced labour.

IFRC urges authorities at all points along migration routes to ensure that vulnerable people are provided with humanitarian assistance and protection throughout their journeys, irrespective of legal status.