REFUNITE: Connecting Refugees


REFUNITE
REFUNITE staff registers a refugee at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.

With the number of displaced people exceeding 65.3 million around the world, one mobile tool offers to connect refugees to long-lost family members and friends. Already a success, REFUNITE was among the 10 solutions presented at the United Nations’ Solutions Summit in September 2016.

The organization was founded in 2008 by two brothers, David and Christopher Mikkelsen. The co-founders have famously compared REFUNITE to, “a Google for refugees.” They describe the company as the first-ever global, web-based search tool for refugees.

Over 590,000 refugees are registered to the platform. In 2016 only, REFUNITE helped to register over 160,000 refugees. So far, it is estimated that over 35,000 family members have been reconnected through REFUNITE.

The idea behind REFUNITE is to empower refugees to search for their family members themselves. Naturally, security is a priority. Refugees don’t have to enter information that they are not comfortable sharing. Obviously however, the more details that are included, the easier a search becomes. When users recognize a matching profile, they can send a message to verify the identity of the other person. Details such as clan or sub-clan, a family tradition, a birthmark, or a favorite meal can play a crucial role. It is then up to the family members to make arrangements to connect or to meet.

REFUNITE offers its services free of charge. This is mostly thanks to partnerships with technology companies such as Ericsson, and a global network of mobile operators allowing REFUNITE to communicate directly with refugees via mobile devices. REFUNITE also collaborates with humanitarian agencies, including UNHCR and the International Red Cross.