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EDITORIAL: New student project will help refugees



A new technology out of University of California, Davis, is extremely promising and has the potential to change the lives of millions of refugees. This project is called Article 26 Backpack, which is a way for refugees to digitally store and share documents.

Important documents of refugees such as college degrees and birth certificates can be easily lost. Article 26 Backpack takes away the stress of keeping these crucial documents safe.

A document simply needs to be photographed to be uploaded and stored. This is a very easy process that can be quickly done in the process of leaving a country. There are even registration centers where Syrian refugees can access the technology needed to upload their documents, such as those in Lebanon.

With this technology, refugees can focus on keeping themselves and their families safe instead of trying to keep track of various bits of paper or risking their lives to attain them in the first place.

While it seems like a simple concept, it is revolutionary for those who need this service. Having access to documents such as transcripts, resumes or diplomas can be the difference between refugees being successful or unsuccessful in their new locations. With physical documents destroyed or impossible to access, refugees do not have proof of work or education. This can all be circumvented with Article 26 Backpack.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, there are 25.4 million refugees in the world today. More than half of these refugees are children. 

The UNHCR website says, “Just 23 percent of refugee children are enrolled in secondary school, compared to 84 percent globally.  For higher education the situation is critical. Only one percent of refugees attend university, compared to 37 percent globally."

Obviously, the state of education of refugee children is critical. Lack of a secondary school or university education can be the barrier for a refugee to have a successful new life. It can be defeating to resign oneself to a life or job that is beneath one’s education and capabilities.

One of the barriers to receiving an education is the destruction or loss of documents. For example, someone who has completed most of the requirements for a degree before the institution was destroyed would be required to start from scratch if no records of the education existed. Trying to adapt to a new country and customs is difficult enough. Add the burden of unverifiable experience, and it becomes impossible.

With Article 26 Backpack, the transcripts could have been saved. Not only could they be saved, but they could be easily shared with universities and employers. People in such a situation would have a much greater chance of being able to continue their education.

The name of the project is in honor of Article 26 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In this, the UN declares, “Everyone has the right to an education.” In our world today, education is vital. It is how you get a good enough job to make money to feed your family, or how you can get a job that fulfills your academic interests.

Being able to assimilate into a new country is integral to the success and independence of a refugee. Someone fleeing a country to ensure the safety of loved ones should not be punished for not acquiring proper documentation before leaving a dangerous situation. As an amazing new humanitarian aid, Article 26 Backpack can help rebuild lives.

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