Networking by refugees
Last month, a Time-magazine reporter published the following account from a Greek island.
“Mustafa Arnab’s hands were cold and shook as he tore away the thin plastic film protecting his smartphone. He had spent nearly four hours aboard an overcrowded rubber boat crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece. The 25-year-old Syrian doctor from Damascus was desperate to do two things: message his family and take a selfie. He turned to me as his phone powered on. “I will take a selfie with you,” he exclaimed, relieved and eager to relay news of his safe arrival in Greece.”
It was enough reason for Republican Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, to raise suspicion with taunting remarks at one of his rallies.
Trump taunted “First of all, why are people in a migration having cell phones? It’s sort of strange. Who’s paying for those cell phones? Where are they coming from? Who are they calling? These are people — can you imagine, many, many, many cell phones. Where do they get cell phones? Who pays their monthly bill?”
While Trump tried to cut some slack for his neo-fascist agenda at the expense of millions of refugees, the proverbial rescue line for many is networking via smartphones.
Refugees rely on WhatsApp, Viber and Line to communicate with loved ones back home. They survey border crossings via Google Maps and get the latest updates via Facebook Messenger. Millions of pictures on Instagram give visuals of routes, people and buildings, as well as official forms and documents.
Refugees have cell phones, because they had them before. In the vastness of the Middle East deserts, smartphones quickly became the most powerful means of communication. International networks and pre-paid phones enabled networking like never before in world history.
The networking abilities of more than one million refugees and their eagerness to use smartphone technology to the max, by far outperformed the lazy and sticky attitude and behavior of European government officials and law enforcement. Refugees’ coding abilities beat the European establishment; it became so disruptive, that, no matter how much politicians use muscle language, the refugees, and their networking skills prevail.
These advanced networking skills will undoubtedly become the competitive advantage of our new European citizens.
By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle.