Just what refugees need: Banksy and Zuckerberg

Just what refugees need: Banksy and Zuckerberg
Blog: Graffiti artist Banksy and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg have made proposals over the past few days attempting to help refugees.
3 min read
28 Sep, 2015
Refugees live in a makeshift camp in Calais, France [Getty]
A summer of tragedy has shed light on the flow of refugees attempting to flee the world's conflict zones into Europe, in the hope of finding a better life from the one they left behind in war-torn countries such as Syria.

Many have found themselves in refugee camps, and with no end to the crisis in sight, and seemingly no will from some countries to improve their situation, some well-known names are proposing their own particular ways to help.

If Banksy and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg have their way, refugees will be living in former art installations and surfing the internet via giant drones.

To the anonymous political graffiti artist Banksy's idea first.

His anti-theme park, Dismaland, which has been disappointing 150,000 punters actively looking for disappointment since it opened five weeks ago, is being dismantled, and Banksy has revealed that whatever is salvageable will be sent to the infamous "Jungle" camp - a very real dystopian nightmare in which refugees hoping to cross from France to the United Kingdom have been forced to pitch up in Calais.

"All the timber and fixtures from Dismaland are being sent to the Jungle refugee camp near Calais to build shelters," Banksy said in a post on Dismaland's website, where he placed a tongue-in-cheek reference to "Dismaland Calais" - before adding that no online tickets would be available.

Refugees at the Jungle try on a regular basis to get onto lorries crossing the English Channel, often risking their lives, and live in squalid conditions at the camp.

Then there is Zuckerberg's plan for refugees to be provided with internet connections.

The founder of Facebook made the announcement on Saturday at a lunch hosted by the United Nations Private Sector Forum - an event held to encourage corporate executives to do their bit in helping achieve the UN's global development goals announced on Friday.

Zuckerberg has his own goal - Internet.org - a movement that aims to provide internet access to the billions of people who are unable to access it. It will work via a huge drone that will beam the internet into people's homes.

"The internet is more than just a network of machines, it is the key driver of social and economic progress in our time," Zuckerberg said.

"A 'like' or a post won't stop a tank or a bullet, but when people are connected, we have the chance to build a common global community with a shared understanding.

"[Internet access] will help refugees better access support from the aid community and maintain their links to families," he added.

Interestingly enough, refugees often do have internet access in their camps, with the Dutch journalist Brenda Stoter pointing out on Twitter that many refugees she had met held Facebook accounts. 

Although Zuckerberg did not announce how he would be go about providing the internet to refugee camps on Saturday, presumably the Facebook drones, said to be the size of a Boeing 737 but as yet unfinished, will be the best way to achieve his plan.

Yet, as the scheme looks set to be done in partnership with the UN, the refugees housed in Banksy's former Dismaland will most likely not be getting drone-supplied internet - the UN has no role in administering their Jungle, where they are left to fend for themselves.