“A strong internet connection” to feel closer to their families
Imagine: you’ve lost your father while you are abroad, alone, far away from your family, friends and loved ones’ comfort and without any way to contact them. No possibility to go back and no money to make a call. What would you ask if someone offered you help? “A private space with strong internet connection so he could skype with the family back home,” this is what a migrant, who had just lost his father, asked to the IOM staff in the Bira centre where TSF provides a free internet connection for migrants, refugees and humanitarian organisations.
“A strong internet connection” is what can make a difference in such a situation. It’s a way to hear your loved ones’ voice, to see them, and to be present, in some way, in a very difficult moment. Nowadays, Internet may not seem a primary need for someone who is struggling to survive in the quest for a normal life. But if you think about it, when you have nothing around you, just a few minutes of a familiar voice, an image of someone you know, even a slightly blurred one, or a short text, can be such a relief for you and your family.
Amira Hadzimehmedovic, Manager of the Bira centre for IOM in Bosnia, indeed confirms: "Through my work with migrants I realised that they appreciate and need the internet connection more than any other service, because it's their connection with the families left behind." And your family is part of your roots, no matter where you are or where you go, it will always be a part of you that you need to feel close in some way. The connection is so important that when it doesn’t work due to power cuts, it’s noticed and requested right away: “Any time Internet is not working they [migrants and refugees] come asking why it is not working even before I myself realise there is a problem,” Amira continues.
Same confirmation from Florent Bervas, TSF Head of Mission in Bosnia, “The feedback we get from the users is positive. They are all very happy and grateful for the connection because that’s their only way to remain constantly in contact with their loved ones. Every time Internet is not working due to a power cut, tens of migrants go and see the centre managers to ask for its reestablishment.”
The situation in Bosnia is not improving, at least 7,500 refugees and migrants are believed to be in the country, and tens of them try to cross the border with Croatia every day. The living conditions remain very difficult, for those living in the centres as well as for the hundreds of them sleeping in parks, abandoned buildings or other makeshift shelters. In such a difficult environment, TSF is providing migrants and refugees with glimmers of hope through a free Internet connection that to them means far more than a connection. It is, above all, an essential psychological link for these people who have been enduring years of wandering and suffering.