Due to the illegal invasion of Ukraine in 2022, it is estimated that 14 million people have been forced to flee their home - the majority of whom are women and children. And while countries have opened their borders, there is a lack of infrastructure to allow for safe relocation. Human traffickers have seen this an opportunity to exploit vulnerable Ukrainians into slavery, waiting to pounce as soon as they arrive. We partnered with anti-slavery charity, Unseen UK, to understand the real situation. Armed with their valuable insights and experience, we quickly realised that getting vital information to Ukrainians the very moment they arrived in the UK is crucial. Our solution would need to reach these vulnerable refugees before the human traffickers did.
Our answer was a text message. A Ukrainian Welcome Text.
Our text was just like the one that we all get when we turn on our mobile phone in a foreign country. Only this time, the text contained the vital information and advice that would help stop a life of slavery before it could start. Our Ukrainian Welcome Text explained, in English, Ukrainian and Russian, the dangers posed by traffickers, as well as instructions on how to avoid falling prey. It then directed all the Ukrainian newcomers to an online hub with even more information about how to safely set-up in their newly adopted country.
Our “simple solution” was unfortunately, not so simple to implement. To ensure that our Welcome Text reached Ukrainian refugees the minute they arrived in the UK, we had to get the Ukrainian Telecom providers onboard to automatically send it the minute a Ukrainian mobile was switched on in the UK. We contacted each one, but due to the ongoing invasion, we received no response. Undaunted, we decided to take a new approach and we took our message to the public in order to utilise the power of social media. Our new focus would be the UK-based Telcos, all of whom had affiliate partners in Ukraine. With the help of more than 25 human rights groups and a large public outcry, including UK Member of Parliament, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Unseen UK managed to successfully get the UK Telcos onboard. They then worked directly with their Ukrainian partners to put the technical requirements in place and geo-target Ukrainian refugees the exact moment their mobile phone were switched on in the UK.
At launch, the two largest Ukrainian Telcos, Vodafone and Kyivstar, delivered our text to Ukrainian refugees as soon as they arrived in the UK. In addition to the safety advice contained with this text, each recipient also received a link to a Ukrainian Welcome Hub, containing all the information they would need to stay safe in their new home. This initial text was delivered in English, Ukrainian and Russian to ensure that no refugee would misunderstand the advice. Incredibly, based on the success achieved in the UK, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) contacted us at the beginning of 2023 and have taken our Ukraine Welcome Text Europe-wide. Now, Ukrainians are receiving our Welcome Text, the minute they enter any of the 60 member-states within the OSCE’s jurisdiction. We have also created a pan-European website for Ukrainians to access support, no matter where they are in Europe.
Unseen - Ukraine Welcome Text
Due to the illegal invasion of Ukraine in 2022, an estimated 14 million people have been forced to flee their home. Countries have opened their borders, but there's a lack of infrastructure to allow for safe relocation. This Welcome Text helped to provide this infrastructue.