'Hello': French travel guide launches special edition for refugees

'Hello': French travel guide launches special edition for refugees

22nd September 2015, Comments 0 comments

The Routard travel guide that has led generations of French travellers through foreign lands has published a special version to help refugees navigate daily life in France.

"The idea was to make a Routard guide using only illustrations, which show problems which may arise in daily situations," said Philippe Gloaguen, the founder of the company who came up with the idea.

Named 'Hello', the 96-page guide is described as a "universal visual dictionary" and is made up of colourful drawings of clothing, places, food and places of worship, allowing non-French speakers to communicate what they need.

Doctor, dentist, colours or even illustrations indicating that a food order is to take away or eat in -- hundreds of everyday items and places are depicted to make the refugees' lives easier.

And while the language of love is meant to be universal, Routard did not want to take any chances and even included a picture of a man, a woman and a heart that someone could use to make themselves understood.

"We quickly realised that the problem wasn't as much the welcome as the complexity of communication," said Gloaguen.

"Among the Eritreans for example, only one percent speak Arabic and it is nearly impossible to find translators. It is an insane waste of time."

Gloaguen describes his guide as one of several efforts from French people and businesses to help refugees, such as those who have offered to house them or supermarkets who have donated food.

He said he was "ashamed" of the government's "terrible" offer to take 24,000 refugees as floods of desperate people risk their lives to seek a better life in France.

"Sure there is a crisis, difficulties, but it is a question of humanity," said Gloaguen.

"These people are not delinquents or criminals, they are just families with women and children who are fleeing death.

"When we know that our grandparents' generation risked their lives to protect Jews, I am a little ashamed."

The guide, which is free, will not be handed directly to refugees but will be distributed through associations who help them.

An initial print run of 4,000 guides will be ready in about two weeks, but it can already be downloaded from www.routard.com.

Many refugees are looking past Europe's second economy which has gained an unfavourable reputation over its painful bureaucracy, a long wait for papers and accommodation, and civil servants who barely speak English.

France's stuttering economy, where some 3.5 million are unemployed, is also a turn-off, and those fleeing conflict prefer to head to Germany, Sweden or the Netherlands.

© 2015 AFP

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