Videos, voice notes and GPS coordinates: A helpline for migrants in distress
"We've been in the forest for two weeks. It is very cold." A woman from Iraq sends a voice note on WhatsApp, along with a video of a crying child. She's stuck in the forest between Belarus and Poland, along with thousands of other migrants hoping to make their way to the European Union.
She sent these calls for help to members of the Facebook page "Consolidated Rescue Group", who are in touch with migrants around the world. Volunteers behind the page gather information from the migrants, such as their GPS locations and photos and videos describing their situations. Then, the volunteers help NGOs on the ground contact them.
Getting help to some of these migrants and asylum seekers is not an easy task. At the border of Belarus and Poland, for example, border guards often prevent aid workers from the UN or Red Cross from reaching migrant groups.
The Facebook page was created by a young Iraqi man, now living in Germany. He was a migrant himself and is now dedicated to helping others.
Consolidated Rescue Group doesn't only help migrants in eastern Europe – the page has been contacted by migrants stuck at the border between Turkey and Greece, and others at sea. One boat, holding 26 people including a child, was taking on water in the Mediterranean. Consolidated Rescue alerted the Italian coast guard, who were able to rescue the group.
After hearing all these stories from migrants in distress, our Observer says he tries to warn people of the dangers they may face in trying to reach the EU. "I'm not going to tell them either 'Yes, go to Europe' or 'Stay home'," he says. "They just have to know they'll be risking their lives."
Click on the player to watch the FRANCE 24 Observers video