France’s leading publisher of travel guides is due to distribute thousands of specially-designed books aimed at helping migrants and refugees communicate their basic needs.
Made by the same team that publishes the “Guide du Routard”, country guides that adorn bookshelves in almost every French household, “Hello” is a 90-page book that contains no words.
Instead, pictures covering virtually any situation can be found and pointed at by refugees and migrants looking for help.
It is broken down into five sections – practical information, housing and shelter, health, food, and leisure – that will help migrants find what they need and above all help the locals understand them.
The publisher said the initiative is a reaction to “government hesitation” in the face of Europe’s migrant crisis.
“Our rulers are too chicken to do anything for these people,” Philippe Gloaguen, editor in chief of the Guide du Routard, told France Info radio on Tuesday.
France has recently agreed to take in 24,000 refugees over the next two years, as requested by the European Commission. But critics say a lot more could be done, noting that Germany has pledged to welcome 30 times as many.
Gloaguen said the guide, which will have an initial print-run of 5,000 copies and cost 10,000 euros, was being funded equally by Le Routard and the Voyageurs du Monde travel agency. It will be handed out to migrants free of charge.
Apps to the rescue
It isn’t the first such effort to provide innovative media to help migrants navigate the often complicated new world in which they have landed.
The free app, which is available in six languages – English, Arabic, Farsi, Hungarian, Pashto and Urdu – sends users the latest information on subjects such as border closures, local laws, and asylum procedures.
The developers say the app, which has been downloaded around 1,000 times according to the Google Play Store, was developed because of a chronic lack of information being provided by governments, and even some deliberate misinformation.
This misinformation includes an attempt in Hungary earlier this month to persuade migrants that they were boarding a train to Western Europe, only to try to dump them at a refugee camp outside Budapest.