RefUnite: Reconnecting refugees with their families

refunite265.3 million people around the world have been forced out of their homes. Of that, about 21.3 million are refugees. Nearly 34,000 people are forcibly displaced every day as a result of conflict or persecution, according to UNHCR.

Not long ago, we read the news of Palestinian dancer Hassan Rabeh (winner of Arabs Got Talent 2013) committing suicide after suffering severe psychological trauma from being separated from his family. He was a 25-year old refugee displaced by war – once from Palestine with his family as a child, and then again from his adopted home in Damascus, Syria. He was a member of the Lebanon wing of the studio I dance with in Dubai, a dear friend of our teachers. I cannot begin to imagine what must feel like to be a refugee, or to be torn away from your family without a drop of hope that you will ever see them again.

I salute everyone and any organisation dedicating their energy to helping people in such dire situations, many of whom have lost all faith. RefUnite is one of them. Launched in 2008, the non-profit organisation provides a platform to search for missing people. Whether you are registering a lost person or trying to find your family, RefUnite allows you to search an anonymous database of over 500,000 people looking to trace and reconnect with their families. It allows access via computer, text messages, or a USSD (phone to web) network.

The service is the brainchild of Danish brothers David and Christopher Mikkelsen who got the idea after trying to help an Afghani refugee separated from his family and five siblings while escaping the Taliban. They managed to help him reunite with his family after six years of separation, however realised that existing family tracing methods lacked collaborative technology, and decided that they must create a better way.

Worth checking out, and spread the word if you know anyone who could benefit from it.

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