Unseen’s Welcome Text for Ukrainian refugees rolls out across Europe

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has launched an initiative across the European region to provide vital information to Ukrainian refugees arriving in the UK and European countries via a Welcome Text. The concept was created by BBD Perfect Storm, the brand and cultural transformation company, alongside anti-slavery charity, Unseen UK.

The idea for the text was developed from Unseen’s initial plan to hand out leaflets at the point of entry to the UK. However, this approach didn’t account for how quickly traffickers can make contact with arrivals and the logistical issues of having enough people to hand out leaflets to reach everyone arriving. To address this, BBD Perfect Storm came up with a simple solution: use existing telco infrastructure to reach as many people as possible. Given that most people have a mobile phone, the automated text delivers key information at the most critical point of their journey – landing in a foreign country when they are at their most vulnerable.

The initial Welcome Text was designed to help prevent vulnerable Ukrainians arriving in the UK from being exploited by human traffickers who prey on those who lack access to critical information about their new surroundings. The Welcome Text was automatically delivered to Ukrainian refugees the minute they arrived in the UK and switched on their phones, alerting them to the potential dangers of criminal trafficking gangs. This followed a social media campaign which rallied 25 anti-slavery NGOs in the UK to lobby and drive engagement from the main Telcos in Ukraine, including Vodafone and Kyivstar, to distribute the text through their networks.

The OSCE, the world’s largest regional security organization, has seen great results in the UK, with over 46,000 unique visits to ukrainewelcome.org, and has now launched the same pan-European initiative for Ukrainians to access support, accessed via the Welcome Text. Included within this site are the helplines and other useful contacts from the OSCE’s participating states, with a focus on those hosting the largest number of Ukrainian refugees.

“A text like this one could be the difference between a safe emigration and a life of slavery,” said Unseen UK CEO, Andrew Wallis. “The success of the initiative in the UK has potentially saved tens of thousands of Ukrainians from a life of slavery. With the adoption of the Welcome Text by the OSCE, the scheme is set to become a key tool in the fight against human trafficking and exploitation of refugees across Europe.”