In the light of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the massive forced displacements it has occured, Techfugees has launched a website aggregating all initiatives we hear about through the 30+ local Whatsapp group across Europe. Open airtables are available to anyone willing to take part in this collaborative mapping of social emergency and long term initiatives offered to refugees and forcibly displaced persons in Europe. It is an internal open website for volunteers mainly.
The Ukraine crisis has awakened a lot of Europeans, at last. We stand in solidarity with forcibly displaced persons, whether they are from Ukraine, Russia, Bielorussia or any other country and acknowledge the fact that this general enthusiasm and collective awareness is a positive step towards human rights. However, it is not the first nor unfortunately the last migration movement and we need to be prepared, as humans, and as host countries. We advocate for consolidation of existing initiatives rather than reinventing the wheel crisis after crisis in emergency situations.
Techfugees France has looked at a multitude of initiatives, which are often fragmented. In order – on the one hand – to promote effective digital projects facilitating access to public services in France for the displaced, and – on the other hand – to avoid any duplication of efforts and canalize the energy, great capacity and good will of the tech sector, a group of volunteers highlighted key existing digital initiatives fostering the inclusion of displaced persons on the French territory.
With interdisciplinary – and organized – collaboration, impactful digital projects will be able to scale their impact and serve the increasing number of displaced persons in need of service.
Here’s a list of apps and platforms for refugees and asylum seekers in France and those wanting to help
Following the recent events in Ukraine, we have updated with Techfugees France a list of the most useful digital services for migrants arriving in France in order to access information, education, employment, health and social inclusion. NB: this article will be updated thanks to the suggestions of our community in France. All currently listed projects are or will be listed on the Responsible Digital Innovations Open Database created with and for displaced people.
Let’s start from the most general to go to the most specific: access to information.
ℹ️ DIGITAL INFORMATION
Knowing where to sleep, where to eat, how to charge your cell phone… The mapping of first aid services is one of the first cases of digital applications intended for marginalized people, in particular asylum seekers or Dubliners. Whether they are the result of an individual initiative, or of a collaboration between different field associations, these interactive maps make it possible to regularly update a very localized service and information offer: food distribution, clothing, accommodation centers, water points, free wifi access, public toilets, etc.). One thinks in particular of the mapping service of the Refugee Info Bus in the North) but also of Welcome Map Paris. To choose one today, we recommend REFaid, which is in several countries at the same time and has embarked on many local initiatives under its wing!
In the same logic, a mapping of the various actors offering services or resources related to the administrative path and professional inclusion of the asylum seeker has been set up, regionally (eg FinDaWay in the Var region), and nationally with SamSam, the platform managed by France Terre d’Asile, then since 2020s with Réfugiés.Info, a platform developed by DiAIR. There are multilingual “information sheets” on transport, administrative procedures (in particular on recognition of skills or diplomas abroad), or even on how to occupy your free time.
Why this interest in news content aggregators?
You would think that if you look for this information, you will find it? Well it’s not that easy! Indeed, a great need was shown in a study carried out in 2021 with more than 500 asylum seekers by 8 associations in France (Watizat, Aurore, Samu Social Paris, Emmaüs Solidarité, France Horizon, Armée du Salut, Secours Catholique and Action contre la Faim) shows that one of the main difficulties when arriving in France are:
- The lack of clear information leading to a misunderstanding of the French reception system and a lack of knowledge of the rights resulting in an almost systematic precariousness of asylum seekers and statutory refugees.
- Insufficient supply of places in accommodation centers;
Access to information can be facilitated by the internet, that’s for sure. It is still necessary that the structure has the confidence and the expertise necessary to support the people using its services.
Now let’s move on to the second main challenge: hosting.
🏡 DIGITAL AND HOSTING
🏠 Finding short/medium term accommodation:
This is the bet of Singa, which in 2016 launched the J’Accueille platform (formerly CALM, Comme à La Maison). In a few years, the community has brought together 2,500 hosts and 570 people welcomed. They are always looking for new hosts, who would be interested in opening their doors for between 3 and 12 months, so don’t hesitate to apply or talk about it around you. The human relationships that emerge enriched are a real catalyst for social change: they make it possible to find or change loved ones, friends, family, and even colleagues in one’s company. It is not just a house that is shared, it is experiences, stories and knowledge. With Techfugees we are witness to this: some partners have chosen to support the cause of inclusion and have convinced their company to get involved with us following one of these great meetings on CALM. Another interesting initiative, Bed Food Coffee is a mobile application available on iOS and android to share and find the essentials of life, namely: a bed, food or just a coffee (social link)
Beyond the host/hosted matching platform, hosting a person at home requires reflection and preparation, especially when they have experienced potentially traumatic events. With several years of experience, training is organized by this associative network to become a “solidarity host”, such as Refugees Welcome (Facebook post below)
Other digital platforms for hosting in France:
- Created by JRS: https://www.jrsfrance.org/jrs-welcome/ (JRS Welcome)
- Created by Airbnb: airbnb.org/help-ukraine or its cooperative french counterpart Fairbnb https://fairbnb.coop/fr/
- Created by Utopia56: https://utopia56.org/hebergement-solidaire/
- Site only in Ukrainian: https://www.shelter4ua.com/
- Created by a collective of citizens: https://fr.isupportukraine.eu/
- Created by 4 geek friends on February 25, 2022, following a photo shared in the media of homeless Ukrainian children: https://fr.eu4ua.org/
📚 DIGITAL EDUCATION
In France, children have the right to go to school. This is also the case during the asylum application. In theory at least. The main digital resources related to education are either orientation groups in higher education (eg UniRefugiés) or applications for learning French.
🇫🇷 Learning French:
A free application that we like at Techfugees France is “J’APPrends”. The Small Bang interactive studio team and linguists came to present their launch during TFF’s Serious Game hackathon in 2019. They use video games and were designed specifically for migrants who cannot read or write. The aim is to make it easier for them to learn French and to read/write it in daily and administrative life in France.
And applications to learn French, there are a myriad of them: DuoLingo, Happy FLE, Solodou. Compared to physical training (which can be found on Alpha Network in particular) why go to an application? Autonomy, ease of getting started without a support structure and mainly free. The pandemic has also shown that the internet offers alternatives to physical learning, although it does not replace it! This is what has prompted professional structures like Abajad to turn to digital to offer additional services.
Among the reasons for choosing digital, there is also the almost immediate adaptation of the content to the speed of progress of the learners. Managing the diversity of different physical class levels was the main difficulty that pushed organizations like Frello to offer digital tools to teachers in order to better understand and support heterogeneous audiences with often limited resources.
Other digital initiatives to learn French:
- At all levels, learn French online for free thanks to video exercises and audio aids for vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and culture(s) offered by the Learning French page from TV5 Monde. On their platform, more than 572 classics of French-language literature are also freely available 🙂
- From your mobile phone, tablet or computer, the FUN platform offers French lessons. Videos and interactive activities will allow you, for example, to learn how to look for a job, apply for an advertisement, pass an interview, integrate a company, work in a team and exchange with colleagues!
- FACT is a free and translated application to learn professional vocabulary in the maintenance, agriculture, horticulture and industry trades to be effective at work.
🌡 DIGITAL HEALTH
In France when it comes to health, an appointment booking especially, one of the mostly used platform is Doctolib. It is a free online platform that helps you make medical appointments . It thus puts patients and healthcare professionals in contact. You can find general practitioners or specialist doctors (such as dentists or gynecologists for example).
- Aalia.Tech, the voice assistant that facilitates exchanges between foreigners and caregivers: https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/31585/aaliatech-lassistant-vocal-qui-facilite-les-echanges-entre-etrangers -and-caregivers
- An online psychosocial space, accessible all the time, offered by Orspere-Samdarra, a national observatory on the themes of mental health and vulnerabilities, located at the Center Hospitalier Le Vinatier in Lyon. They are for all those concerned by migration and provide insight into issues related to migration and/or mental health. Educational videos on migration and/or mental health are available on Youtube in Arabic, Farsi and Tigrinya (eg depression, addiction, stress, psycho-trauma…)
👇 HOW CAN I SUPPORT IF I LIVE IN FRANCE?
- Official website of the Embassy of Ukraine in France: https://fr.aideukraine.fr/
- Official website of the French government (DiAIR): https://parrainage.refugees.info/
- Created by members of civil society: https://www.weukraine.fr/
- Official website of the European Commission to make donations to NGOs working on the front line to support people fleeing the conflict:
👉🏼 Resources to go further:
Much of the information in this article is drawn from interviews with displaced people in France, personal experiences and “recognized” news sites such as Réfugiés.Infos. Digital is not everything, so do not hesitate to take a look at their site to discover more associations, physical, and sometimes very local, which meet the needs of a district, a city, a region !
- Apps and websites for migrants: where to find help online? (InfoMigrants, 2018)
- To study the regional/local trend in the development of digital solutions and the different actors involved (e.g. University of Montaigne): ‘MY FRENCH KIT’ AN APPLICATION, DESIGNED IN BORDEAUX, TO HELP REFUGEES TO INTEGRATE (France Bleu, 2018 )
- UNHCR content & information https://www.unhcr.org/fr-fr/orientations-pour-les-refugees-en-france.html
- File & admin management app https://www.cnil.fr/fr/application-de-gestion-des-dossiers-des-ressortissants-etrangers-en-france-agdref
- Get the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees (EQPR)
- Have your diploma recognized (Enic-Naric)