Refugees in need of medical care in Europe can now use a free web app that lists safe, free-to-access clinics across the continent.
Doctors of the World, the charity behind the ClinicFinder app, said there was a “real need” for refugees to know where they can access medical advice without being landed with a hefty bill. The app is browsed-based, mobile friendly and available in Arabic, English, Farsi and French.
“If we show them where they can definitely get free healthcare, that’s really useful,” Tom McKenzie, business development and innovation manager at the charity, tells WIRED.
The service uses a device’s GPS to show the nearest non-governmental, free-to-access clinics offering safe, free services. It can also be searched by location (Athens, Berlin) or medical need (children, victim of violence).
McKenzie said there was often confusion amongst health workers and refugees about their medical rights, which led to misinformation and fear. Some refugees, he said, were incorrectly turned away from medical facilities to which they should have free access, while some were too afraid to visit clinics for fear of arrest.
The web app, which has only just gone live, has details of 73 clinics in 16 countries. McKenzie said how big it could grow remained “an unknown quantity”.
“Although it doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s more than has ever been put into one central resource,” he explained. “We’ll get a better sense of how much it could grow once people know about it”.
Anyone can submit a clinic to be listed on the service, with all entries requiring pre-approval by the charity. McKenzie said checking the legitimacy of new clinics was “one of the most important things” for the service. “They’ll know straight away that they will get help,” he added.
10,000 doctors and nurses working with refugees in Europe have already been sent contact cards with details of the ClinicFinder app, which will now be distributed to those in need.
The charity said it hoped other aid agencies would contribute to the service, increasing the number of clinics listed “substantially”. Better information on what is available and where could also stop replication of similar services, according to the charity.
McKenzie said the “majority” of refugees and migrants used smartphones, with access to Wi-Fi one of the first things they ask about when arriving in Europe.
“It’s where they get every piece of information from and where they communicate with their families,” he added.
Doctors of the World has been working with refugees in Calais since 2003 and is part of the global Médecins Du Monde network, whose 3,000 volunteers work on more than 350 projects in 80 countries.
As well as helping refugrees overseas, the charity also has clinics in Bethnal Green, London and in Brighton, that provide medical care and support for migrants and refugees.