As the refugee and migrant crisis continues to get worse, public broadcasters are working daily to try and help make sense of the situation. The EBU's latest Lunchtime Talk, hosted at its office in Brussels, focused on how its Members, in particular ERT (Greece), ARD /WDR (Germany) and SR (Sweden), are bringing together refugees and locals.
German broadcaster WDRforyou is streaming information for refugees over Facebook in both Arab and German, a very effective way of reaching those on the move. It is so popular “even refugees in Calais watch it” said ARD’s Isabelle Schayani. “In 2015 we had campaigns. Journalists were campaigning in their countries for the acceptance of refugees. Now it is 2016 and we need a new way of communicating about and for refugees”.
In Greece, public broadcaster ERT has set up ERT4Refugees, to help coordinate organizations and individuals who wish to give humanitarian aid to refugees.
In Sweden, Syrian journalists are offered a space to tell their stories on Syrien Inifran, which has changed the way Swedish radio’s Konflik programme is tackling its stories. Personal stories have helped Syrien Inifran become one of the most listened to editions of Konflikt. “We know that there were even people in a bar in Egypt smoking their shisha and listening to the program”, said Rafa Almasri from Swedish Radio.
The different initiatives reflect the refugee situation of each country: Greek ERT4Refugees focuses on information for the Greek people and humanitarian aid for refugees, WDR’s platform WDRforYou is constantly looking for new ways to inform refugees about life in Germany, and Swedish Radio program “Syrien Inifran” gives Syrians the opportunity to discuss the complexities of life both in Syria and upon arrival in Sweden to a Swedish audience.
All three initiatives have proved to be a great success in their respective countries both among locals and refugees, but also in refugees’ home countries. Isabelle Schayani stressed that the lack of information amongst refugees often drives them into the arms of smugglers. “It is information they need. And we owe them at least that. If we want to fight smugglers, it is the only way” she concluded.
The need to better reach out to and inform refugees is necessary, highlighted May Ann Ramsay, Senior expert at DG Migration and Home Affairs, who presented the European Commission’s policy. “However this is not something the Commission can do”, she said. She described the broadcasters’ initiatives as “best practices” which the Commission would be keen to export to other Member States.