The so-called refugee crisis, which has dominated the media agenda more than any other issue since 2015, was from the very beginning characterized by the digital era: mobile telephones had developed into central tools of those seeking protection, and Wi-Fi hotspots had become as vital as waterholes. The mobile devices enabled access to information for planning the flight, directed the way to the destination country by means of applications such as the GPS, and made it possible for refugees to stay in touch with both those left behind, as well as with the ones who had already fled. Nevertheless, although digital wireless devices evidently played a major role, data on the communication and interaction patterns and their impact on refugee flows (apart from media reports and case studies) were hardly available.
Against this background, the research project "Flight 2.0" examined the refugees’ use of mobile devices on their journey from their home country to Germany using a representative quantitative survey of a total of 404 refugees. The asylum seekers, most of whom had come from Syria, Iraq and Central Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran), were interviewed in April and May 2016 by native speakers in Berlin’s emergency refugee shelters. The standardized questionnaire included not only the use of media during, but also before and after the flight.
The results of the study reveal how the refugees use mobile devices as well as what sources of information they draw upon and trust. They also illuminate the pragmatic functions of smartphones in the context of the flight, such as the usage of the GPS or the possibility to obtain information on the Internet about Germany. Going beyond a descriptive record of communication patterns, the study also provides insights into the effects of the usage of information and communication technologies on the refugees’ attitudes and behaviors.