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Pillar of Hope

Can a search engine act as a link for locating families and finding your loved ones separated in war?
It sounds too good to believe. Refugees United (Refunite), a web-based anonymous and secure family search engine is slowing turning to be a ray of hope for millions of refugees missing worldwide. Founded by the brother duo David and Christopher Troensegaard Mikkelsen, Refunite has a unique system wherein refugees can register under nicknames, identifying scars, village name, birth year etc.  With this way they can contact each other in a secure environment and in their own language. GoDubai gets a peek into the working of this unique website:

Q: Why did you plan to start a website for locating refugees? What was your inspiration? How did you go about it?
A: Brothers David and Christopher Troensegaard Mikkelsen created the NGO Refugees United after meeting Mansour, a young Afghan refugee living in Denmark. Four years prior to their meeting, Mansour had fled the Taliban regime with his family and had tragically become separated from both his parents and siblings during the excruciating escape. He ended up in Denmark, alone at the age of 12. When David and Christopher met Mansour, what he wanted, more than anything in this world, was to find his family.

David, Christopher and Mansour soon began a long journey, both mentally and physically, trying to relocate Mansour's family. While trying to unearth information on the family's whereabouts, the founders realized the immense difficulties the search entailed, mainly due to lack of cross-border information, lack of infrastructure and language barriers. Fear also added much to the equation. No one had created an anonymous forum for families to reconnect.

Even with the dedicated assistance of David and Christopher, having knowledge of formal institutions and language skills and traveling far and wide, it has only been possible to locate Mansour's one younger brother.

“Even though Refugees United cannot provide physical reunification, it is our hope to provide certainty for those who need it most - families that have been separated. No one should endure the uncertainty and solitude so many refugees endure today. No parent should suffer the torture of not knowing the whereabouts or fate of their children,” says Christopher T. Mikkelsen.

Q: Has anyone located their relatives or loved ones through the website?
A: The number of people who located their relatives can't be confirmed at the moment, but will be announced shortly.

Q:  Can you mention the specialty of your search engine? How is it different from other search engines?
A: Some of the differences between other tracing units and Refugees United are:

-We work on-line

-We offer full anonymity - The safety lies in this very fact, that each person decides what information is sensitive and what isn't.

For example: If you register with your initials and your nickname, your place of birth and a childhood memory, your parents will be able to recognize your while no one else will receive sensitive data about you. A large range of combinations are possible on the search engine – you can upload a photo and a note about your place of birth. The whole point is that YOU decide.

- The application runs on dedicated and secured servers, which are highly protected by firewalls and that can only be serviced using a secured protocol narrowed down by specific IP addresses. In order to protect the information, the server that stores the database is not connected to the Internet.  Only certified personnel can access the servers to ensure maximum security. Besides that, the servers are physically located in areas highly protected by steel doors and bullet-proof windows and surveillance cameras.

-Our tool can be used by all refugees, regardless of legal status and conflict

-We put the power in the hands of the refugees themselves. Only you know your own situation, hence you decide what information is relevant and safe to use. As of now the website is available in 20 languages and will soon be available in all the refugee languages.

Q: How many active members do you have in your website as of now? Which country?
A: There are more than 42 million refugees around the globe and we expect to help as much people as we can. 

Q: How has been the response of the public for this venture?
A: The Public was very supportive by donating and working for us free of charge. Specifically on the November 10, more than 12, 000 people worldwide blogged about refugees and with an average contributing blogger reaching 200 readers, the plight of refugees may have reached as many 2.5 million readers.

Q: Which other organisations help you in your aid with tracing refugees?
A: Refugees United is maintained by the founders and a small administrative team headquartered in Copenhagen. There's a foundation behind the NGO to support the activities and raise funds. Also, there are partners that support Refugees United's operations, such as FedEx, SAS, TDC Hosting, SAP, MyC4, Obaku Harmony, Danfoss Foundation, Ketchum, etc. Refugees United also rely on individual and corporate donations to support its operations.

As Refugees United is independent of all formal institutions, states and governments, we are funded through private and corporate support. We have established a very well functioning network of supporters who donate, work for us free of charge or give us great discounts. Many companies wish to support the simple and effective idea of Refugees United, and we are both happy and proud that we have been able to attract so much goodwill.

Source: Editor,
Posted: 27/11/2008

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