Research report: Voices of Refugees

DAHLIA and BBC Media Action conducted a joint study to understand information and communication needs of refugees in Greece and Germany. This study provides a snapshot of refugees’ experiences regarding communication and information at different points on their journey, based on interviews with 79 refugees and 45 humanitarian actors. The START Network commissioned this research through the CDAC Network.

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Executive summary – Voices of Refugees (137 KB)
Research report – Voices of Refugees (1,298 KB)

Europe is facing its largest refugee crisis since the end of World War II. According to UNHCR, since the beginning of 2015 over 1 million people driven out of their countries by war, poverty and persecution entered Europe in this record-breaking year. It is a crisis of unprecedented magnitude that largely originates from conflicts in Syria and Iraq or instability and poverty in parts of Africa. Additionally, since March 2016, the situation of refugees changed drastically. Until that date refugees were able to cross through the Western Balkans route. However, after series of restrictions, the route was declared shut. This decision left more than 46,000 people stranded in Greece.

The study examines communication’s behaviours and priority information needs of refugees in three areas: on their journey, in “transit” camps in Greece, and in Germany.The research’s objective was to identify opportunities for better communication with refugees across Europe, so that humanitarian agencies have access to insights on successful communication with refugees and can identify communication gaps.

The findings highlight refugees’ need for critical information about how to survive in their current situation, and what their future will hold. Concretely, refugees’ priority is to receive timely and reliable information on how to get to their next destination safely, quickly and without being detained. Communication with Communities raises the very specific challenge of credibility in addressing information and communications needs. A re-definition of roles and mechanisms is seen as necessary, including the identification of credible information sources, the clarification of service providers and information, and the adaptation of the messages provided to affected population from different countries and ethnic backgrounds, speaking different languages and differing enormously in levels of literacy and use of technology.
Refugees also expressed their need to be listened to and tell their stories. In many cases they have been faster to respond than international organisations and are already feeding other refugees with information through their own social media platforms or webpages.

In April 2016, humanitarian agency staff in Greece reviewed the research findings. The report shares recommendations from refugees and humanitarian agencies. These recommendations can be useful to adapt CwC initiatives but also to develop new strategies to respond to pressing information and communication needs.

The report is accompanied by a film designed to be watch on a mobile phone. It helps viewers to experience the perilous refugees journey.