Myth: Refugees have smartphones so they must be fine.
Fact: Being a refugee is not a socioeconomic status.
As images of migration across Europe began to dominate the news cycle in 2014-2015, many were quick to point out that a lot of refugees had smartphones, wore good-quality clothing, or seemed to be in good health. Accordingly, anti-immigrant groups claimed that refugees didn’t need help.
There are many factors to consider to debunk this claim. First, being a refugee is not a socioeconomic status. Refugees come from all levels of wealth, including many in the middle- and upper-classes. Refugees are fleeing war and persecution, which affect all members of society. Refugees don’t have to be poor or destitute– but most have lost all their material belongings and legal protections. Second, many anti-immigrant observers falsely assume that cellphone technology is a rare luxury in the countries from which refugees are fleeing. In Syria, for example, there are 75 to 85 mobile phone subscriptions per 100 people – placing it right behind Austria and Hong Kong. We are living in an era of digital connectivity, unlike previous migration crises. Third, smartphones are no longer exclusively expensive. Smartphones can cost as little as $100 in some countries. Finally, smartphones are a lifeline for many refugees. They provide vital information on services, but also finding family members, dealing with emergencies, and staying connected to the world while living in isolation.
Thanks to this phenomenon of the “connected refugee,” NaTakallam can provide income opportunities to refugees, who only need a smartphone to work as language tutors and translators for users all around the world.