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The role of smartphones and social networks in the integration of irregular migrants in Europe

Updated: Feb 23, 2021

Social networks are undoubtedly the great revelation of the 21st century. They have made interpersonal relationships easier, especially when we are far away from those who are part of our lives. This is the case for migrants, who use them to keep in touch with their loved ones who have remained in their country of origin. Thanks to them, they will maintain links with their family and friends, get to know them and inform them about their situation by talking directly to them. Through social networks, they will also be able to find out where they are going to migrate to.

Social networks are also useful to migrants for better integration in their host countries.

Why do migrants spend so much time on their smartphones?

Migrants have travelled thousands and thousands of kilometres, leaving behind them friends and relatives. It is absolutely essential for them to have a mobile phone in order to be in contact with those who stayed at home. If you think about it, we do the same even if we haven’t made a perilous journey, like they have. How often do we communicate during the day with our loved ones, via social networks, to inform them, calm them down or reassure those who care about us? We call them to let them know that we have arrived somewhere or just to tell them what is happening to us, our fears, our anxieties, our disappointments, but also to listen to their problems.

It is therefore easy to imagine how essential the mobile phone is for migrants. Migrants will know at any time if their village has been attacked or not, if their parents are in good health and safe... This tool will become a part of them, they will no longer be able to do without it. Far from being considered a luxury item, the mobile phone is currently a basic necessity. The rhetoric of those who accuse migrants of having sufficient means to buy a smartphone as if it were a luxury item is therefore worthless. Similarly, despite the difficult conditions in some African countries, a study by Medianet shows us that 37.5% of the total African population is connected. This represents 10.9% of Internet users in the world. However, users often use old telephones and the African continent is still lagging behind in terms of Internet access and connection speed.

What is the role of social networks in the integration of migrants?

Social networks enable migrants to better integrate into the new society in which they find themselves. Through them, they will be able to find out what is happening in their host country, they will be able to join virtual groups of migrants in order to cooperate and help each other. Thanks to these tools, they will also be able to follow the different information pages created to inform them in real time. Through the social networks, they will be able to make new friends from their host country, which will be a strong point in their integration process.

Which are the social networks most used by migrants?

Facebook is the most widely used network. It will be used by them to see what their relatives post, to get information, to better cooperate with each other. Whatsapp is used for more personal purposes, to communicate directly, by message or call, with family and friends. Instagram, a little less used than Facebook, is also a very popular media. Linkedin, the professional network par excellence, is the least used platform.

In this context, the mobile phone is becoming a fundamental tool for migrants, not only as an emotional support but also as a support to better understand the world which they are now part of. Beyond sharing opinions, discussing current events or managing their social life, social networks are also the first source of information to help migrants integrate, providing contacts and information, both formal and informal.

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