Help Refugees Access Lifesaving Information

by Internews
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Help Refugees Access Lifesaving Information
Help Refugees Access Lifesaving Information
Help Refugees Access Lifesaving Information
Help Refugees Access Lifesaving Information
Help Refugees Access Lifesaving Information
Help Refugees Access Lifesaving Information
Help Refugees Access Lifesaving Information
Help Refugees Access Lifesaving Information
Help Refugees Access Lifesaving Information
Portrait by a photo camp student
Portrait by a photo camp student
Through National Geographic Photo Camp, refugees and Greek citizens living in Athens discover ways to tell stories together.


Shaghayegh went patiently room-to-room in the cavernous old school, where classrooms have become informal settlements for refugees in Greece. Just inside the doors were partitions, with sheets hung to create rooms or separate families from others.

At most doors, she found Arabic speakers. She could get by with them in simple English.

“Do you know where is the Afghan families? Iranian?” she asked.

Your family?” a young man replied earnestly, wondering if she was lost.

“No, no. Just a family. Thank you.” She walked to the next door and knocked.

Shaghayegh was on assignment. For National Geographic Photo Camp, she and 17 other young people—some refugees, like herself, others Greek citizens—were exploring ideas of freedom and identity. She had five days of intensive training, assignments and field trips to tell a photo story in and around Athens, where thousands of refugees now find themselves.

A group of 4 young people stand in a circle and talk

(Shaghayegh, center, listens to direction from National Geographic photograher Robin Hammond, left, the students’ mentor for the week. Hammond was preparing the students for their assignment making photos in an informal refugee settlement at the site of a former school in Athens. Photo credit: Kirsten Elstner/National Geographic Photo Camp.) 


After a half hour of looking, she found a family who spoke Farsi, like her. And, like a seasoned photojournalist, she then waited longer. For more than hour, she talked with the family—a group of women and children, some related, some not, who had fled Afghanistan and were now waiting themselves, for papers and permission to join family in Sweden, or Germany. After tea, after swapping stories, Shaghayegh had their trust and permission to make a few photographs.

“But not for Facebook,” they all cautioned, not willing for their faces to be seen in public. Everyone has security concerns.

“A lot of photography is about waiting”

Ronan Donovan, one of the National Geographic photographers leading this week’s work, talked to the students about the concept of the “decisive moment” in photography. By mid-week, many of them were executing it perfectly—framing up a shot and waiting for action, for something interesting, to come into view before snapping the shutter.

For the students in Greece as refugees, from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Iran, waiting is a fact of life. Shaghayegh is here in Athens from Iran, living in a refugee camp with her mother and siblings, and hoping for a better future. She was stifled by life in Iran, where she tried to work as a professional photographer but was limited in what she was allowed to do as a woman, and as a woman who chooses not to wear hijab. She walked five days over mountains to Turkey, then traveled by boat to Greece.

She has thought a lot about freedom, the theme of this camp.

Growing up, she discovered a love of mountain climbing. “When I was 10 years old I began climbing and I experienced new type of life. Everywhere I climbed I looked for a harder path, and I went there—this taught me that I’m stronger than before.”

“But I grew up in a country where there are dictatorial rules, and everything I wanted to do was blocked. I spent my most of my time in mountains because when I was there I felt that I’m equal to a man.”

Even in mountain climbing, limits were enforced. She asked her climbing leader to let her climb solo, something men could do, and he said no. “I asked him, ‘What is the problem and why?’ He told me it was because wild animals, or shepherds could attack me. Of course he meant because I’m a woman. And for me it meant that there was no safety in my paradise [of mountain climbing]. I understood that the freedom is far away from me.”

Picturing freedom

Here at Photo Camp, Shaghayegh has been a standout. With the Afghan women at the informal school settlement, she made only a few photos after their long conversation, but two were highlighted in the next morning’s group critique with Ronan.

At each critique, discussions of lighting, framing, and visual narratives were delivered in English, then translated in small huddles to Farsi and Arabic by Internews staff. All of the students were finding new ways to tell their own stories, and the stories of those around them.

Shaghayegh has dreams—to work professionally, to live again among mountains. It’s unclear what her next steps are. But to watch her at work with photography, it’s clear she has a focus and a determination to make a better future.

“My desire is to show to people, specifically Middle Eastern women, that it is possible to go everywhere, even if you aren’t a man.”

“It is the most beautiful thing in the world that you can be a woman and you can go.”

This article is crossposted from our website. You can read the original here.

Internews partnered with National Geographic to bring Photo Camp to Greece, an extension of our News That Moves project to improve to provide actionable, local information for refugees and migrants in Greece.

At National Geographic Photo Camp, young people from underserved communities, including at-risk and refugee teens, learn how to use photography to tell their own stories, explore the world around them, and develop deep connections with others.

World-class National Geographic photographers and National Geographic magazine editors provide students with a personalized, immersive learning experience, inspiring the next generation of photojournalists. Then, through intimate presentations in their own communities and public exhibitions that reach millions of viewers, National Geographic Photo Camp showcases the students’ perspectives on issues that are important to all of us.

National Geographic Photo Camp is sponsored by the National Geographic Center of Excellence in Photography in partnership with VisionWorkshops of Annapolis, Maryland. To date, National Geographic has sponsored 76 Photo Camps with 2,500 students in 20 countries. Internews has previously partnered with National Geographic on Photo Camps in Crimea, Pakistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, South Sudan, and Kenya.


A photo by photo camp student
A photo by photo camp student
Self-portrait by a photo camp student
Self-portrait by a photo camp student


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Rumours + Answers Legal Special Page 1
Rumours + Answers Legal Special Page 1

NewsThat Moves recently presented special issues of The Rumours.

In The ‘Legal Special’ we answered the most pressing questions from refugees and checked the facts.

In particular, we tackled the issue of asylum in Greece and in other countries along the Balkan Route, along with family reunification and relocation from Greece.

We also focused on other important topics like registration, protection cards, travel documents and legal help.

To fulfil the needs of an increasing number of asylum seekers, the ‘Legal Special’ is now also available in French.

The issue translated in French is also available as a PDF here.

A second special issue focused on health. Many of the questions coming in have had to do with access to health care and confusion about what is available and where to go. 

The News that Moves Health Special breaks down what do in a medical emergency, and what to do for non-emergency needs. It also includes a visual chart to make it easier for people to see what services are available in various locations around Greece, and from which NGOs.

For the latest issues and updates of Rumour Tracker and In the Loop, go to

And thank you again for all of your support!

Rumours + Answers Legal Special Page 2
Rumours + Answers Legal Special Page 2
Health Special Infographic Part1
Health Special Infographic Part1
Health Support Services Chart
Health Support Services Chart

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Since January of this year, 38% of new arrivals to Greece have been children. Yet we rarely hear what they have to say.

Child participation is one of the core principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which asserts that children and young people have the right to freely express their views on all matters affecting them, and to have their opinions taken into account.

In November, Internews and Save the Children delivered a series of workshops designed to help children in refugee sites near Athens express themselves in creative ways. Syrian children in Ritsona site and Afghan children in Oinofyta site participated.

The result of the workshops were featured in a special issue of In The Loop, a weekly publication that connects the humanitarian community and the people affected by the EU refugee crisis.

Read the full article on our Medium page

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On behalf of Internews we would like to thank you for your support in aiding refugees to get access to information they so desperately need. Because of support of people like you have been able to launch a new news service, NewsThatMoves, with the latest information for those migrating throughout Europe.

Challenge:  Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees have made a desperate choice. When faced with the option of remaining in an increasingly war-torn country versus the risks of treacherous ocean crossings and long treks through uncertain terrain, thousands have chosen the latter. From Turkey through Greece and onward through the Balkans, a lack of current, local information makes many vulnerable to kidnappers, traffickers and smugglers; others simply travel for days to find a border recently closed.

Solution: In the first few weeks we were on the ground in Greece, Internews focused on meeting basic needs for information for those crossing the ocean and landing on the beach in Lesbos without any information about where to go next or what to do. We put up maps and hired fishmonger trucks and loudspeakers to drive around the island, broadcasting information about where to register or how to access medical help in Arabic. Today, we've expanded our efforts to include a full time on-line news service,, operating in four languages that directly serves the information needs of refugees in the Mediterranean and Europe.

NewsThatMoves recognizes that information and communication is as essential in a crisis as any other kind of aid or support. We believe that to be properly informed is a human right and a humanitarian principle for all people who are displaced or seeking asylum, especially in Greece and the Balkans. People need information and communication to make decisions about their futures, access essential services, and make their own voices heard.

Based on these rights and principles, we produce independent, verified information people can use. We do not provide advice, we listen to people’s questions and concerns, and respond to them with facts, articles and explanations. We provide updates on the most relevant issues, and we investigate and debunk rumors. We share verified information from all relevant sources, including humanitarian organizations, government authorities, human rights organizations, and others. And as much as possible, we provide platforms where community voices can be heard.

Feedback from our Target Audience: As part of NewsThatMoves Internews is committed to ensuring that the voices of those most affected by the crisis remain front and center of the response. In the Loop explores the concerns and perceptions of people affected by the EU refugee crisis. Internews documents online and offline feedback gathered from refugees and migrants on a daily basis. By providing analysis of this feedback, the review aims to strengthen accountability and close the feedback loop by giving voice to displaced populations. Some of the feedback received includes:

  • Refugees and migrants are often unable to communicate with doctors and nurses at hospitals because of a lack of interpreting services . Some say they have been turned away from hospitals and told to come back when they have a translator. Others saw doctors but could not communicate their symptoms or understand their diagnosis.
  • Refugees and migrants say they are increasingly worried about the mental health of their children as the months drag on and they remain in camps or squats. Many parents raise concerns about their own children – or other children at their site – suffering anxiety and depression, and using drugs.
  • Refugees and migrants at informal sites say that volunteer site managers routinely exploit them and restrict their access to humanitarian aid. Some also say they are concerned about their personal safety because there is a lack of practical measures for protection.

Long-Term Impact: Our goal is simple - ensure access to quality information so that people can make informed decisions that keep their families safe. For minimal cost, you can help ease refugees' transition into Europe and help them connect to much needed aid and assistance.

Current, future and past issues of In the Loop can also be accessed in English, ArabicGreek and Farsi on the News That Moves website.

Thanks so much for your support. We appreciate your compassion and we will be sure to keep you informed as the project continues. 


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Latest issue of the Rumor Tracker
Latest issue of the Rumor Tracker

On behalf of everyone here at Internews, THANK YOU for your support!

With your support, we’re now on our 21st issue of the News That Moves Rumor Tracker.  What has become clear is that rumor and misinformation that is circulating among refugee populations is causing panic, fear and confusion. Because of your ongoing contributions, we are able to counter these rumors with reliable information that refugee populations can use to guide them in their journey.


As many of you know, the closing on the borders along the Balkan Route in early March, and the signing of the EU/Turkey deal soon after, has resulted in the change in operations for Internews and other agencies who are responding to this crisis. Currently, the majority of those affected by this change in policy are refugees who are stuck in Greece. Greek officials estimate that somewhere between 50,000 and 70,000 refugees are stuck in Greece, many of them living in dire conditions in camps that are running low on food, water, and basic supplies. Refugees also have an acute need for news and information, most imminently concerning information related to border and migration, which enables them to make informed decisions and stay safe.

The Rumor Tracker

The Mediterranean Rumor Tracker is a project that collects all of the rumors among refugees passing through Europe. By identifying misinformation and hearsay and responding to it with relevant, factual information, NewsThatMoves Rumor Tracker aims to keep the refugee population at the forefront of our communication response. The Rumor Tracker also feeds into our central news platform, “News That Moves,” a news information service that aggregates and creates content from stringers all along the Balkans route. You can read the full archived reports by following the links attached at the bottom of this report. Here are just two examples of the rumors we have been hearing over the last month, to give you an idea of the kinds of questions and concerns people have.

RUMOR: “After they [authorities] transfer people to camps, everyone who is left at the port will be taken to military camps.”

The majority of the organized sites for accommodating refugees in Greece are under the control and management of the Greek military. Very few sites (such as Elliniko) are not under military management. Some sites or camps may have caravans for shelter and others have tents. According to Greek authorities, all refugees will be taken from Piraeus port to organized sites or camps.

RUMOR: “Now that the EU-Turkey deal is cancelled, the 7 billions will be given to Greece, and will be used to relocate people [refugees] to the EU countries by ships or airplanes.”

The EU-Turkey deal that was signed on 18 March 2016 has not been canceled and it is still in force. Greece will not receive 7 billion EUR as part of this deal. People can be relocated from Greece to other EU countries through the EU Relocation Program. To apply for the EU Relocation Program you first have to register to apply for asylum in Greece and you have to be from Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, Burundi, Central African Republic, Maldives, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Bahrain, or be a stateless person who was living in one of the aforementioned countries.


When we first arrived on Lesbos in September of 2015, helping fill the information needs of the refugees focused on the basics:  while many travelers were cell-phone equipped, what they really needed was posters at the beaches with a map, telling them where they were (that have landed on an island, and were not in mainland Greece), how far key services were (60 km, up some steep hills – not an easy walk), and how much a taxi would cost and when busses would arrive.  While the information was somewhat simple, the ability to provide it was complicated– in multiple languages, to people with different rates of literacy and access to technology. 

 Posters were just a start.  The primary source of information flows among the refugee population was word of mouth, amplified by smartphones.  Much of the information, unfortunately, is rumor and misinformation, some of it quite dangerous and many of it originates with the smugglers in Turkey. 

 In response to this, we complimented the posters with a rumor tracking system and an online, virtual newsroom, News That Moves, to disseminate verified, actionable information to people making the journey to Europe.  This information is distributed on-line, via apps, on billboards, and printed flyers through humanitarian assistance partners. 

Then, the situation changed. On March 20th when the EU- Turkey agreement took effect, the door to Europe slammed shut.   IDP camps are turning into detention centers and dreams of asylum are turning into fears of deportation. 

Given the lack of clarity surrounding the agreement, the “What Now” question has changed…  It is less about where to go and much more about complex asylum laws and still-unclear government procedures, often buried under several layers of national and international law. Under so much new uncertainty and complexity, information is all the more important.

Thanks so much for your support! We so appreciate your compassion and generosity – we will be sure to keep you informed as the project continues. 


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