Giving migrant children a voice through Miniila
The Miniila app stands for empowerment. Empowering children to make better decisions for themselves. Empowering children by giving them access to understandable information on the support that exists. Empowering children through understanding their rights. And finally, by giving them the chance to help others, like them, who continue to go through the same challenges they have gone through.
This is why, Missing Children Europe involved Tarek* and other youth, that were once unaccompanied migrant children, in the development of the Miniila app. Tarek is an 18-year-old boy from Syria who like the other youth have made the journey into Europe and are now building their life in Belgium. Tarek was only a child when he escaped the violence and turmoil in Syria and crossed alone into Europe to find safety. Tarek has personally experienced what it feels like to not understand anything people are saying and to feel completely alone and abandoned. When he escaped Syria, Tarek only spoke Arabic. On his way to Belgium, he encountered many people, some friendly, others less so including some who tried helping him. He could not understand them and, so, he did not trust them. He could only rely on those snippets of information from others in the same situation as him, or older persons who could potentially get him to his final destination. Looking back, Tarek realises how dangerous his situation was, and how often he was in a position of vulnerability.
When Tarek was invited to give his advice, he was sceptical at first. It was first time he was being asked to help build something that could help others just like him.
The priority therefore, was to convince this group of unaccompanied children that their opinions were very valuable in ensuring the success of the app. To create a safe space, the group was asked to create a ‘fictional’ character and to imagine what their most pressing needs and questions would be. This helped them start talking about the reality of the child migrant experience.
“When you’re on the road, the only thing you think of is food and shelter,” emphasised Tarek. The second most important thing was contacting family. Therefore, finding out how to get a phone or buy a sim card and credit was their next priority. Tarek clarifies that “WiFi is mostly used to stay in touch with other migrants or once in the destination country” since their families often do not have access to the internet back home.