Profiling information needs and behaviour of Syrian refugees displaced to Egypt

Essam Mansour
  • Information and Learning Sciences, March 2018, Emerald
  • DOI: 10.1108/ils-08-2017-0088

Profiling information needs and behaviour of Syrian refugees displaced to Egypt

What is it about?

The purpose of this study is to identify the information needs and information-seeking behaviour of Syrian refugees displaced to Egypt. Design/methodology/approach Qualitative data in the form of three focus groups were collected from 37 Syrian refugees who have displaced to Egypt and are concentrated mainly in Greater Cairo. In-depth interviews were conducted in September 2016. Findings Data collected about the demography of Syrian refugees revealed that they tend to be men, slightly more than half, mostly with no formal education, with an average age in the mid-30’s, labelled as low-income persons and mostly single. Findings also showed that much of the information needed by Syrian refugees was described as realistic and real, but some was less clearly defined. All Syrian refugees’ information needs are strongly linked to their daily tasks. The majority of Syrian refugees reported that their priority information need was to be aware of the situation in their home country, followed by issues related to their states of the diaspora that they are passing through, such as services provided to their children, shelter and aid in general, as well as rights and obligations related to their refugee status. They also showed that they need information to help get the right or any appropriate work in the host country (Egypt). The study showed that many Syrian refugees were seeking information that meets their basic daily needs. It also showed that the information-seeking behaviour profile of a very large number of Syrian refugees was to prefer informal sources to formal sources to meet everyday problems, as well as troubles challenged by them. A very large number of Syrian refugees revealed that the verbal communication with friends and families were identified as the most popular informal sources of information sought. The study revealed that most of the Syrian refugees were able to use a variety of technologies for the purpose of communication with others, especially mobile phones, being the most key communication devices followed by almost all of them. The use of assisting technologies and devices, such as the computer and the internet and its vast applications proved to be meaningful by Syrian refugees. Other assisting technologies are also heavily used by Syrian refugees, particularly social media, including social networking sites and many other mobile applications. In addition, Syrian refugees have also relied on other technologies and tools to meet their information needs, including television and satellite channels, especially Arabic, which are widely distributed in the Arab environment. Because of some difficulties related to education and awareness, a number of Syrian refugees were not using any type of library. Syrian refugees have met several problems and challenges in accessing information. Such problem may make it difficult to find basic services, make informed decisions and stay in communication with families. Such problems have also a significant impact on their seeking and using information. Finding appropriate work to get money to secure housing, psychological burdens suffered concerning the image of being refugees, emotional distress, lack of accessing some basic services such as education and transportation, lack of financial resources, lack of time, lack of motivation and cultural and social barriers, were significant to Syrian refugees when seeking information. In spite of these challenges and problems met by Syrian refugees, a good number of them wished to improve their image as refugees and to improve their disastrous situation. Based on the review of the existing literature, as well as the findings of this study, further research is needed to understand information needs and information dissemination among Syrian refugees fled to Egypt and how they perceive, select, use, access and evaluate sources of information. Proper strategies should be designed towards the use of traditional and commonly used information dissemination channels among these refugees, such as cultural performances and group discussions. Research is also needed on the impact of illiteracy on the use of information by this category of information users. Owing to the fragile role played by different types of libraries in meeting the information needs of refugees, further research is seriously needed in this regard. In addition, appropriate services should be provided to refugees. Research limitations/implications This study focuses only on Syrian refugees displaced to Egypt. It does not cover any other refugees inside or outside Egypt, although they significantly exist in Egypt, such as Palestinians, Sudanese, Iraqis, Yemenis, Africans and many other nationals. Any conclusions resulting from this study are limited to only Syrian refugees hosted by Egypt.

Why is it important?

Practical implications This study tries to investigate the Syrian refugees’ information needs and behaviours in terms of their thoughts, motivations, attitudes, preferences and challenges met by them in their search of information. It tries to look at the factors and characteristics that affect this search. Any results from this study may generate interest and create awareness of the information needs of refugees among advocates who are interested in such groups of information users. Originality/value This study attempted to identify a significant gap in identifying the information needs and information-seeking behaviour of Syrian refugees displaced to Egypt. It is the first study of its type to address, in a systematic way, this disadvantaged group resettled and hosted by Egypt. Syrian refugees displaced to Egypt have become a matter of major concern that should be addressed and met by serious academic researchers, as well as by official authorities. The literature on the topic of this research revealed that further research is still needed to be undertaken on such group of information users, as there is a very limited research conducted on this topic in developing and Arab countries, including Egypt, particularly among academic library and information professionals.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Essam Mansour