“We all live with so much uncertainty here. It’s so important that organizations like the Red Cross are providing clear and accurate information, that they listen to what the community needs and does something with that information.”
Saleh, Volunteer with the Red Cross in Nea Kavala Camp, Greece
The acute migration crisis that unfolded in 2015 as a result of economic and political instability in several Middle Eastern and African countries has led to wide-scale displacement. In 2015 alone, Greece saw an influx of more than one million migrants. In 2016, tighter border restrictions and the agreement between the European Union and Turkey has left more than 40,000 migrants currently stranded in Greece. Migrants live with much uncertainty. Access to right information reduces their vulnerability as they cross borders and navigate new cultures, foreign laws and processes. They not only require critical information regarding how to survive but also timely and accurate information on the next steps to secure their future. Most importantly, migrants need to be listened to and tell their stories.
Since the start of the crisis, IFRC together with several European National Red Cross Societies have supported the Hellenic Red Cross to scale up its response to meet the migrant community’s needs. In particular, continuous efforts are made to engage migrants in leading community engagement initiatives and sharing their opinions. The Red Cross is providing hotline services for migrants in 11 different languages. The hotline received almost 10,600 between March and October 2017.
Listening to the migrant communities’ opinion in the aid they receive and giving them the time and space to communicate about what is and isn’t working, what they need and what they don’t need, providing information and creating two-way communication has been central to Red Cross’ response. The active participation of the migrant community has been especially relevant in interpretation, gathering feedback and the implementation of community-based services such as health and hygiene promotion, and psychosocial support.
In addition to the hotline, and community engagement activities within migrant camps supported by the Red Cross, the IFRC has also designed and developed virtualvolunteer.org, a web-based application that helps people access reliable and practical information wherever they are. Currently, there are 20,747 users in Greece – the application has been accessed more than 60,000 times.
At the peak of the crisis, the Red Cross with the support of the local radio station also broadcasted a 20-minute news bulletin in Arabic and Farsi called the Walkie Talkie Information Service. To help people navigate the humanitarian services available, these programmes were saved on USB sticks and broadcasted in transit camps.
Since early 2017, as the emergency situation became more stable, feedback is being collected regularly through suggestion boxes, face-to-face interaction, group meetings and satisfaction surveys including SMS surveys using open data kit (ODK). The recent Red Cross household survey capturing migrants’ feedback highlights that the vast majority of site residents who needed medical assistance looked for the services of the Red Cross. A third of the migrants consider the external medical assistance not adequate and feel unsafe in the camps, with the majority being women.
The regular feedback mechanisms combined with targeted surveys enables the Red Cross and the wider humanitarian community to better understand migrants perceptions, shape services, improve communication and advocate for change. Migrants not only know their needs best but also can highlight the gaps in information required and express the challenges they face. Community engagement approaches leads to effective programming by helping us better understand people’s needs. It creates an environment of trust, mutual respect, transparency and accountability.