Migrants fleeing persecution from the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia are streaming into Europe and have presented European policymakers with their biggest challenge since the debt crisis. The International Organization for Migration estimates that over 464,000 migrants have crossed into Europe during the first nine months of 2015. Syrians fleeing their country’s civil war and Afghans attempting to flee an ongoing war with the Taliban comprise half of the migrant population (39 percent and 11 percent, respectively). Due to geographic coincidence, some of the countries hit hardest by the economic crisis, such as Greece and Italy, are also those serving as main entry points to the European Union by migrants from the Middle East and Africa seeking asylum.  The current legal regime places a unilateral burden on those entry-point states under the Dublin Regulation, which stipulates asylum seekers must remain in the first EU country they enter and that country is solely responsible for reviewing migrants’ asylum applications. This regime has resulted in large migrant detention centers that have all invited charges of abuse and neglect. As with the debt crisis, national interests continue to trump a common European initiative, and budgets for migration and asylum issues have lagged the growing demands and needs.

One entrepreneurial community has taken an active interest in easing the plight of the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing persecution: the technology community. In September Mike Butcher, editor at large of London-based TechCrunch, started the “Techfugees” group. The group is designed to get the technology world involved with the problems faced by the migrants such as money, sustenance, shelter, health, and immigration bureaucracy. Although major technology players such as Google have donated millions of dollars in support, building networks and platforms for millions of people remains a challenge. Other challenges include: creating a way for separated family members and communities to find each other; find ways to effectively report war crimes; build a method for refugees to be heard so that their needs are met; construct a system that helps refugees find and share safe ways to travel; and finally build a cumulative and accessible system for start-ups that stores country-specific asylum and immigration information. Crowdfunding provided another avenue of funding of achieving the organization’s goals; GoFundMe contributions already funded putting WiFi in the refugee camp in Calais. However, all of these initiatives face a looming deadline: Winter is coming.

Jacob Stewart

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