In developing the app, the Red Cross has worked together closely with refugees. Eritrean refugee Semereab Zeratsion: "I think the app is an important tool for refugees. When you arrive in a new country, you may feel like you're lost in the jungle." Sam, who recently fled Syria, is positive about the app as well: "When I arrived in the Netherlands, I was confused and tired. The app would've been a great help to me, because I had no idea where to go. Luckily, I was able to ask for help because I speak English, but many refugees do not." COA and the Dutch Council for Refugees (VluchtelingenWerk Nederland) were also involved in developing the app.
Once they have arrived in the Netherlands, refugees often don't know their exact location, and have no idea what the rest of the procedure will be like, where to find the nearest church or mosque, how the Dutch health care system works, et cetera. The Red Cross Refugee Buddy App is meant to make up for this lack of information. Installing the app upon arrival in the Netherlands means taking away much of the refugees' uncertainty and confusion, while at the same time increasing their independence. For example, the app contains information about practical matters concerning the asylum procedure, traffic and transportation, medical facilities, and Dutch culture. In addition, volunteer editors keep app users up-to-date by supplying news about the refugee crisis in the above-mentioned languages.
An estimated 90% of all refugees who made it to the Netherlands this year own a smartphone. For many of them, their phone is of vital importance during their journey and upon arrival in another country, whether temporary or permanent. It's how they keep in touch with family across the world, through channels like Facebook and WhatsApp. Through the Refugee Buddy App, the Red Cross wants to meet the present-day need for information these people have.
The app is an addition to the emergency aid the Red Cross currently provides for refugees in the Netherlands. As of September, the organization has deployed volunteers throughout the country on a daily basis to help out with emergency housing efforts, first aid, collecting and distributing clothing, and helping to find and reinstate contact with family members.
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