Danish brothers rewarded for popular refugee app

An inspired idea triggered by a chance encounter with an Afghan refugee has revolutionised the search for missing loved ones

Two Danish brothers have been given the prestigious ‘Social Entrepreneur of the Year’ award by the World Economic Forum and the Schwab Foundation.

Christopher and David Mikkelsen, founders of the company Refunite, have developed an app which helps refugees locate missing family members and friends.

Helping the marginalised
The brothers got the idea from a meeting with an Afghan refugee in Denmark, who was looking in vain for his family.

Since the business was founded in 2008, it has grown to become the largest database of missing persons who are fleeing from either poverty or war. Run from Nairobi, Refunite employs 25 people, and as of now, has 600,000 users worldwide.

“Refunite is the world’s largest missing persons network for displaced people and refugees,” the Schwab Fund wrote in connection with the award.

“Refunite has disrupted traditional paper-based reunification methods by creating a platform accessible via any basic phone that is free of charge through which displaced people can take control of the search for missing family members themselves.

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Partnering up with Facebook
The business has been built up through a series of private partnerships, with, among others, Facebook, Ericsson and private funds. This has enabled Refunite to offer its product in a number of different countries.

Users can obtain access to the missing persons database through ordinary mobile phones, text messaging, the internet and a hotline. This makes it much easier to obtain a quick overview instead of having to go to physical archives.

On receiving the award, David Mikkelsen said “this is an award which we accept with humble thanks. Now the spotlight is on my brother and I, but in reality, thousands of people have been involved in Refunite over the last 8-10 years. Our thoughts really go out to them on a day like this.”