Europeans Are Creating Apps and Illustrated Travel Guides to Help Migrants Find Their Way

From: Berhane Habtemariam <>
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 2015 19:24:55 +0200
Europeans Are Creating Apps and Illustrated Travel Guides to Help Migrants Find Their Way

By Pierre Longeray

The company that publishes the French equivalent of the Lonely Planet guide has just released a special illustrated guide book for migrants.

The 90-page guide — titled Hello — is illustrated by French artist Pascal Gauffre, allowing migrants to communicate by simply pointing out what they are looking for, from embassies to ATMs to places of worship. The book is divided into five categories, including "practical information," "accomodation," "health and hygiene," "food," and "leisure."

The book is jointly financed by Le Guide du Routard and French travel agency Voyageurs du Monde. It will have an initial print run of 5,000 copies.

Launched in 1973, the Guide du Routard travel guides was inspired by the Let's Go budget travel guide, which was first published by Harvard students in the '60s. The guides have become something of an institution for French travelers, and the imprint has released close to 150 titles.

A page from the "Hello" guide book, which allows migrants to point to what they are looking for. (Image via the Guide du Routard/JDD)

The new "migrant" edition is the brainchild of Routard founder Philippe Gloaguen, who came up with the idea after meeting with a number of migrant advocacy groups. To get around the problem of having to translate the guide into several languages, Gloaguen told French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche that he decided to commission a "comic book without words, using only illustrations."

Gloaguen also hopes the guide book will send a strong message to the French governement, which he said has been too slow to react to the migrant crisis. Speaking to radio station France Info, the publisher described the government as "a bunch of cowards," and bemoaned the authorities' "hesitations" in the face of the crisis.

A spokesman for Guide du Routard declined to comment any further on the initiative, but described it as a "humanitarian" project.

"It's a practical guide to respond to any situation," said Jean-Francois Rial, CEO of Voyageurs du Monde, which put up half of the 10,000 euros ($11,200) it cost to publish the guide book. Rial said the guide was in line with his company's philosophy of "customized travel" and reflected its belief in a "universal humanism."

The National Federation of Associations for Social Support and Rehabilitation (FNARS) — a network of 870 charities and community organizations — will be tasked with distributing the guide to migrant advocacy groups.

A page taken from the "Practical Information" section of the migrant guide. (Image via Guide du Routard/JDD)

Rial also said that the tourism industry had a "duty" to speak up for migrants. Others in France's tourism industry have recently mobilized to help migrants, including VVF Villages, a company that specializes in vacation rentals, which announced it would make 20 of its rentals available to migrants. Nearly 200 families could benefit from the scheme, which aims to house migrants during the winter months. Other companies, including Costa Cruises and Selectour, have pledged to make donations to migrant support groups.

For the past two weeks, migrants traveling through Hungary have also been able to download a free app to help them along their journey. InfoAid, which is available for Android devices, provides up-to-date information on border closures and transport routes, as well as information on asylum procedures.

The InfoAid app allows migrants to receive updates on the migrant situation in Hungary and in neighboring countries. (Image via Android market)

Developed by Hungarian couple Enys Moses and Nina Kov, InfoAid is currently available in six languages: Arabic, Urdu, Pashtun, Farsi, English, and Hungarian. Kov, who was born in France and whose father was forced to flee Hungary in the '70s, told AFP that migrants "don't know what is happening to them, they are starved of information — sometimes deliberately, if it suits the authorities." Moses and Kov plan to translate the app into new languages, including Greek. InfoAid currently has 700 active users and around 100 more have been joining every day.

In Croatia, which has become a gateway to western Europe now that the Hungarian border is closed, activists have set up a Facebook page to warn migrants about the threat of minefields left over from the 1990s Balkans war. The page — titled "Dear Refugees: Welcome to Croatia" — carries maps and warnings to migrants to "stick to clearly visible roads" when they make they way through the country.

In February, a Syrian software developer launched an app to help Syrians fleeing to neighboring Turkey. The app is called Gherbetna, which means "otherness" in Arabic, and it contains job listings, Turkish news, and information on Turkish law. Around 2 million Syrian migrant and refugees live in Turkey.

Received on Tue Sep 22 2015 - 13:24:56 EDT

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