Emoji hotline helps refugees in France overcome language barriers to aid

French refugee associations France Terre d’Asile and Watizat have adopted the universal language of emojis to speak directly to people in need of protection, no matter their tongue.

In collaboration with TBWA/Paris, the organizations set up a free hotline – The 505 – to answer the call of those in need amid a surge in the number of people fleeing war, poverty and natural disasters.

Breaking down language barriers on the street by employing the universal distress call, the dedicated line connects migrants to services that might otherwise have gone unclaimed by people who cannot speak French.

Recognizing that most migrants now carry a smartphone to remain in contact with friends and family on their journey, the scheme set up a dedicated WhatsApp where people can request a hot meal, warm clothes or a shower simply by sending the appropriate emoji.

The service is supported by communications provider Twilio and promoted for free on digital display boards throughout Paris courtesy of ExterionMedia.

TBWA/Paris has put social purpose at the heart of its creative output having previously drawn attention to the plight of child laborers in the tobacco industry.