UNHCR believes “enhanced connectivity can improve refugee well being”, often used as a means to facilitate communication with loved ones and for entertainment purposes. The Internet has become a necessity for refugees who are looking for ways to pass their time or catch up with estranged loved ones.
Ritsona refugee camp is home to over 800 residents, all able to connect to the camp’s free Wi-Fi network, ‘NETHOPE’. Both residents and volunteers are able to use this for 24 hours a day, although it is not the faster or strongest of networks. On a daily basis at Ritsona you will see residents glued to their phones, either in a battle of connectivity to the Wi-Fi, a deep phone conversation or an impromptu photography session.
Whilst spending some time in Ritsona’s local coffee shop, Gold Café, I noticed a crowd of young men all glued to their phones and interacting with one another about what they were doing. It appeared that they were all involved in a live game, playing for the same team. I listened intently to understand the aim of the game and then started speaking to one of the men who had died in the game. It seemed like an intensely passionate time to interrupt anyone else’s game, this was a serious match.
Recently however, Ritsona’s Wi-Fi has been used to play popular Canadian game- PUBG. The game is downloadable on IPhone and Android devices free of charge and involves multiplayer interaction. Players must log in through their Facebook accounts and can play with their friends in the same team. The game involves battling 100 other live players until they are all eliminated and your team is left standing.
Michael, 20, told me how almost every young man in the camp has the game downloaded on their phone. Residents can speak to one another through the game at the same time and are often battling one another from their individual ISO boxes. “Sometimes we sit together and play, other times we sit alone but talk to each other through the game. I play the game because there is nothing to do in camp; it’s a way of passing time. The game itself is fun and I can play with friends in and outside the camp. People have even married from meeting on the app so it does have a lot of benefits”.
On the importance of WiFi at the camp, Michael explained that it is crucial residents have regular access to Internet. “People use the internet for all sorts of things not just games. They use it for information, to pass time and for learning”.
Internet is often seen as a luxury when in actual fact, even the poorest of countries have access to internet services. The necessity for consistent internet access in refugee camps like Ritsona is great. Considering the amount of time most residents wait for their documentation and asylum cases to be processed, the ability to access free WiFi is significant .
***This account was provided by Ritsona resident Michael and written by I AM YOU staff member Nivine.***