by Anita Dullard, IFRC

“One of the hardest calls I’ve had was from a family whose son had just died. The family had no idea what to do with his body.” Abubaker Faiz works on the information hotline provided by Hellenic Red Cross for refugees and migrants. A former refugee from Afghanistan, Faiz came to Greece in 1997 and says the importance of reliable information is as important now as it was for him 20 years ago.

“Finding out how to get the basics, the right information on asylum processes and who to go to for help, let alone dealing with something as tragic as losing a child, is hard, exhausting,” he says.

Timely, accurate, and trusted information is a critical aspect of humanitarian relief. Access to information reduces the vulnerability of migrants and refugees as they cross borders and negotiate new cultures and foreign laws and processes. It enables people to make informed decisions about their futures and well-being.

“Too often, people on the move can only count on information they receive from unreliable sources, like friends and social media, but also including traffickers and smugglers who target and exploit the most vulnerable people,” explains Miguel Angel Barba Lopez, Red Cross Community Engagement and Accountability delegate in Greece.

“For the Red Cross, listening to people and interacting with them is crucial in understanding what people need and what their concerns are. The suggestions our service users make help to inform the relief we provide and the action we take to improve their living conditions.”

In addition to the information hotline, and community engagement within migrant camps in Greece, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and IBM have designed and developed virtualvolunteer.org. The site and app, which provide relevant information for people on the move, are universally accessible with any connected device, designed for low bandwidth settings, and easily adaptable to meet migrants’ needs anywhere in the world.