Category: General

Paris, France — November 14, 2016. URBAN REFUGEES is thrilled to announce full funding by Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund (the HIF) to develop a mobile messaging system—called SMS Up—a positive paradigm shift in the challenging communication reality for today’s global refugees.

In the developing world, where over 80% of refugees live, many refugees do not have access to smartphones and internet connectivity, which prevents them from utilizing common communication channels like WhatsApp and Viber.  As many refugees exchange information in groups on these messaging platforms, those without access miss out on valuable messages from their community—including information about available services, job opportunities, travel routes, or other crucial tips, including updates from UN agencies and relief organizations.  

Those without smartphones or internet access are cut off from these critical dialogues.  For them, SMS text messaging is a lifeline, also enabling them to maintain contact with family, friends, and community members—especially when separated by long distances.  Because of technological limitations, refugees have been unable to communicate as groups using SMS, making it difficult to self-organize or to communicate time-sensitive information at any significant scale. Until now.

URBAN REFUGEES will create and distribute SMS Up, a group messaging service that enables users to send SMS messages to multiple recipients using a single mobile phone number.  SMS Up was born one year ago at the 2015 London Hackathon, a collaboration between URBAN REFUGEES and a small group of developers including two from Facebook.  The Hackathon was organized by Techfugees, a global network of tech industry professionals who have come together to devote their talents to finding solutions to the refugee crisis.

SMS Up is a grassroots, easy-to-use service that is designed to meet the needs of the many refugees who do not have a smartphone or an internet connection on their phone.  This innovative tool will enable refugees to:

  • Share time sensitive information: A refugee can notify others when a security issue arises and, when he or she is in need of urgent help.
  • Self-organize easily via SMS: refugees can easily share information on issues such as available services in a city, names of friendly employers, housing opportunities or to coordinate community meetings. It will be particularly useful for refugee CBOs, community-based organizations working on the ground with refugees in cities.  The platform will enable these organizations to more easily communicate with the refugee populations they serve.
  • Easily find support: With just the distribution list name in hand, a refugee can instantly learn where to find assistance by sending an SMS to a whole community.

SMS Up will be part of our Urban Refugee Incubation Program (URIP). The program aims to strengthen the capacities of urban refugee community based organizations (CBOs) that often struggle to share information with their community and to self organize, which impedes them from acting as reliable relays with the humanitarian community. By facilitating the work of CBOs, SMS Up thus indirectly facilitates the work of the humanitarian community with refugees.

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URBAN REFUGEES is a not for profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of urban refugees around the world.  By advocating for alternatives to refugee camps and reinforcing the support structure for urban refugees on the ground, our team operates from the truth that sustainable solutions to the global refugee crisis are possible—and the seeds of these solutions are finding root in refugee communities all around the world.

For more information, visit our website at: or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Elrha is a global initiative dedicated to improving humanitarian outcomes through partnership, research and innovation. Elrha’s programme, the Humanitarian Innovation Fund, supports organisations and individuals to identify, nurture and share innovative and scalable solutions to the challenges facing effective humanitarian assistance.  Find out more at or @the_HIF

On Friday 6th May 2016 the Government of Kenya (GoK) issued a statement via the Ministry of the Interior communicating its intention to close down Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps within the shortest possible timeframe. These camps constitute two of the largest refugee complexes in the world, housing over half a million displaced people. Although URBAN REFUGEES disagree with the encampment of refugees, it strongly opposes the Kenyan Government’s forced removal of refugees from these camps. Measures that aim to help refugees exit camps should always be implemented with refugees’ consent. In addition they should offer dignified living conditions and long-term livelihood prospects outside of camps, however this option is not being provided to refugees in Kenya.

The reliance on encampment as a means of dealing with large-scale displacement has led to donor fatigue and Government resentment in the case of Kenya. It has resulted in an unsustainable situation for all parties concerned. This unfolding crisis underscores the impetus to seek alternatives to camps and the need for increased implementation of programmes in urban areas. These allow refugees to live their lives to their full potential, while benefitting the host population in a myriad of ways. Much greater support from the international community is required for these programmes to be initiated on a larger scale. The success of such programmes is evident through initiatives such as those outlined on the website

URBAN REFUGEES urges the Government of Kenya to retract its intention to close Dadaab and Kakuma. Further it advocates the Government to provide greater freedom of movement to refugees so they can live more fulfilling lives and benefit their hosts while in exile. The opportunity exists to collaborate with the humanitarian community in developing long-term sustainable solutions for refugees that are amenable to all concerned stakeholders.

URBAN REFUGEES also contends that the forced repatriation of thousands of refugees to volatile countries will not solve existing refugee situations, but will augment the problem in the long term. Coercing thousands of mostly Somali and South Sudanese refugees back to areas where they fear for their lives, and have little or no access to land or sustainable livelihoods is highly counterproductive. This violation of refugee’s rights will further worsen the situation of thousands of lives and intensify conflict in refugee producing countries in the East and Horn of Africa. The closure of the camps would put added stress on other refugee hosting countries and increase the number of refugees forced into dangerous journeys in search of safety.

The Government statement cited Kenya’s shouldering of a “very heavy economic, security and environmental burden” over the past 25 years in hosting refugees. The statement emphasises in particular the security concerns related to the terrorist organisation al-Shabaab that have been responsible for attacks in Kenya. URBAN REFUGEES acknowledges that Kenya has legitimate security concerns and holds a duty to protect its citizens. However, Kenya also has responsibilities to refugees under national, regional and international law. As a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, Kenya also retains a duty to the refugees within its territory. The principle of non-refoulment remains the cornerstone of international refugee law and by flouting this law in forcing the closure of the refugee camps, the Government of Kenya is revoking much needed protection for hundred of thousands of vulnerable individuals.

It must be reiterated that Kenya has been a generous and welcoming host during the past 25 years. The Government of Kenya’s actions highlight the lack of international support provided to hosting states. Increased international assistance that can benefit both refugees and the host population must be available to countries such as Kenya. In conjunction with this, provision must be made for allowing refugees to pursue livelihood activities outside camps, which can be advantageous to the host population through increased economic growth. This effectively shares the responsibility for refugees, providing long-term durable solutions and avoids the problems of protracted displacement.



Date of creation: December 2013

Mission: Support urban refugees living in Bangkok, Thailand

Area of work:

  • Education: Community School for the Urban Refugee Children under RHR, directly facilitating 85 children and more then 80 children indirectly
  • Mental Health
  • Food support and
  • Training’s for women in English and Thai Language
  • Motivational lectures
  • Text Books
  • Notes Books
  • Stationary
  • Scholarships for Volunteer Teachers
  • Volunteer Teachers for Thai and English Classes for children & Adults
  • Sponsorships for students in International Schools
  • Outdoor activities for Students & Teachers
  • Training and Workshops for Community Members
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