Some interesting and (more or less) recent articles that explore the role of smartphones for refugees:
1. The most crucial item that migrants and refugees carry is a smartphone – Quartz
This blog article is a light read and holds some useful information and further links – good as a first introduction.
2. Idea’s Odyssey – Sam Nemeth (Dutch journalist)
Sam Nemeth follows ‘Ideas’, a Syrian refugee he met on Lesbos. While they communicate through Social Media, Ideas eventually makes the journey to Europe. They stay in contact through WhatsApp and text messaging. Nemeth published these conversations, pictures, videos, and links – which give incredible insights into this journey – online.
3. A 21st-Century Migrant’s Essentials: Food, Shelter, Smartphone – The New York Times
Although this article was first published in August 2015, it still has relevance: the article stresses the importance of smartphones and social media for traffickers
On the Arabic-language Facebook group Trafficking to Europe, one trafficker offers a 50 percent discount for children under 5. The 1,700 euro price of the journey from Istanbul to Thessaloniki, Greece, about $1,900, includes travel by car to and from each side of the border with a two-hour walk across.
“We have cars going every day,” the trafficker boasts. One user asked whether there was a family discount for multiple passengers. And in case one doubts the offer’s veracity, the post has 39 “likes.”
The article further makes the argument that less and less migrants rely on traffickers, as others, who have already completed their journeys before, post crucial information about their travels online. This again, according to the NYT article, led to a 50% price drop, charged by the traffickers.
Moreover, the article addresses the dangers of using and owning smartphones in Syria:
Once he left Syria, Mr. Aljasem said one of the first things he did was get a new smartphone, because it was too dangerous to travel with one in Syria. Soldiers at government checkpoints, as well as at Islamic State checkpoints, commonly demand Facebook passwords, he said. They look at Facebook profiles to determine one’s allegiance in the war.
4.For Millions of Immigrants, a common language: WhatsApp – The New York Times
This article was published in December 2016 and highlights, how and why migrants use WhatsApp:
Because it’s free, has a relatively good record on privacy and security, and is popular in so many parts of the world, WhatsApp has cultivated an unusual audience: It has become the lingua franca among people who, whether by choice or by force, have left their homes for the unknown.