Migrant App - Effective Communication with Migrants Before and During Crisis
By Mayvelline Gonzalez, UN Migrant Agency Information Management Specialist
Thousands of buildings in the Southern Mexican state of Oaxaca were destroyed by a powerful 8.1 magnitude earthquake in September 2017. At least 98 people lost their lives nationwide. A week later, Hurricane Max caused large waves, floods, mudslides and sinkholes in the state of Guerrero.
Extreme natural events are common in Central America. In fact, the entire Mesoamerica region—an important migratory corridor—is prone to natural disasters that can cause considerable damage to households and communities.
Government warnings and advisories can be effective modes of communication between authorities and the population before and during natural disasters.
With migration having diversified numerous communities in the region, there are fears that the efficiency of Government warnings and advisories has been reduced. Among other reasons, migrants may not speak the local language, or trust the legitimacy of the scattered information they receive from numerous sources.
To respond to these challenges, IOM, the UN Migration Agency, initiated the development of a smartphone application: The MigrantApp.
The MigrantApp is a pilot programme designed to provide reliable, rapid, safe and free information to migrants in English, French and Spanish from governmental, private and civil society services.
The MigrantApp covers the entire Mesoamerica region, reaching from Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, to Nicaragua and Panama. Since its launch in September 2017, the App has been downloaded by more than 7,500 users.
The App simplifies access to information on more than 1,600 georeferenced centres such as consulates, embassies, migration offices, shelters, and other relevant services that provide migrants with assistance or information in the region.
The MigrantApp also facilitates effective communication on the evolving nature of crises and new issues that arise, through real-time notification alerts on risks related to natural disasters or epidemiologic phenomena. Users can share their location—through WhatsApp, e-mail, Facebook, and other messaging services—with relatives and consulates. Emergency numbers and tips for safe migration can also be accessed through the MigrantApp.
Features of MigrantApp:
- Protection and Assistance Information: Simplified access to information on health centres, consulates and embassies, migration offices, human rights protection centres, and shelters. The App also includes information on training and employment, and on assistance for particular vulnerable groups, including victims of human trafficking.
- Migration Information: Information on the requirements to enter Mesoamerica countries for 27 nationalities.
- Remittances: Allows users to compares costs of available remittance options.
- My Route: Allows users to privately share their location in real-time.
- News: Up-to-date, country-specific migration news and alerts in case of emergencies such as hurricanes and epidemics
The confidentiality of users’ information is protected based on IOM’s data protection principles. Users can also deactivate the GPS feature on their mobile devices.
The MigrantApp was developed as part of IOM’s Mesoamerica Programme, which is financed by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration of the Department of State of the United States of America. The objective of the programme is to strengthen the capacities of governments and civil society organizations to improve the protection of and assistance to migrants in situations of vulnerability.
- Additional information on the MigrantApp is available on IOM’s Mesoamerica Programme website.
- MigApp video.
Mayvelline Gonzalez is an Information Manager Specialist working with the UN Migration Agency’s Mesoamerican Programme. She is the coordinator and supervisor for the development and implementation of MigrantApp. Mayvelline has worked with IOM’s Data Tracking Monitoring and has led Disaster Risk Management workshops focused on the inclusion of the migrant population in the Mesoamerica Region. She holds a degree in Geography from the University of Costa Rica.