Google’s Interactive Website Explains Syrian Refugee Crisis

A Syrian girl waves from the balcony of an unfinished apartment block in northern Lebanon

By Scott Huntington

Although Google got its start as a search engine, the brand has expanded to provide information to users in other ways. For example, Google Maps gives point-to-point directions to destinations for drivers, pedestrians and people who prefer to use public transit. Google News is a hub that allows people to review the top headlines or learn about trending topics at a glance.

Recently, the brand set out to disperse essential information about a hot-button topic: The Syrian refugee crisis. Google is making this happen via a purposeful website that gives information beyond what’s typically offered in headlines or short articles.

Giving Users Answers to Pressing Questions

The search engine’s ability to accurately respond to questions is Google’s specialty. As most Google users know, if you simply start typing a question into the search engine, a drop-down list suggests possible ways to complete your phrase based on what other people have searched for.

Representatives from Google created the website, which is called Searching for Syria, in partnership with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The goal of the site is to address five common questions about the Syrian refugee crisis using combined information from Google and the UNHCR:

  1. Who is a refugee?
  2. Where are the Syrian refugees going?
  3. What was Syria like before the war?
  4. What is happening in Syria?
  5. How can I help Syrian refugees?

By partnering with the UN, Google can insure searchers receive the best information about a difficult and complicated subject.

Equipping People to Assist in Practical Ways

The last question on the list has been on the minds of many since the Syrian crisis began dominating headlines. Potential approaches to helping include donating portions of personal earnings to Syrians who can no longer work, supporting medical teams who are working in the country and even signing up to translate for refugees. Fittingly, the newly launched Google site has a feature that allows people to donate money online.

Offering Notable Perspectives About the Scope of the Crisis

Even when people are genuinely interested in what is going on outside their homelands, it can be extremely hard for them to grasp the details. The magnitude of how Syrians are suffering and the various factors that have caused them to flee can be overwhelming. However, the Searching for Syria site has features that make the devastation more relatable for people, no matter where they live.

The events in Syria have been going on for six years and have caused significant disruptions to all the country’s citizens. To illustrate that, the Google site features before-and-after Google Earth images that show Syrian sites before the crisis in comparison to today.

There are also first-hand accounts from people who have been affected by the ongoing tragedy. It’s one thing to hear reports from journalists about how everyday life for Syrian residents has changed, but personal details from those who have lived through the situation might give outsiders a deeper understanding of the situation’s severity.

The Searching for Syria website is on the Google homepage of select countries. If you have access to it, browsing the content could help you think differently about the refugee crisis, or at least expand your existing knowledge.

Image credit: UK Department for International Development, Flickr CC

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