How to help Ukrainian refugees with just one text 

Unseen is campaigning to get telecoms companies to provide a welcome text containing crucial safety information for Ukrainian refugees arriving in the UK.

Think of the welcome notification you get on your mobile phone from the local telecoms provider when you arrive in a foreign country. 

Now imagine if that welcome contained succinct, vital information on how to stay safe and who to contact if you need help. 

That’s the idea behind a campaign to help Ukrainian refugees avoid the threat of human trafficking when they arrive in the UK. 

Human trafficking and Ukraine 

When there are thousands of vulnerable people on the move, as in the Ukraine war, there are traffickers who will prey on them – offering lifts, for example, or the promise of accommodation and work.  

The Ukraine Welcome campaign aims to persuade telecoms operators to provide simple safety information instead of just a routine welcome and information about costs.  

A joint project by Unseen and brand agency BBD Perfect Storm, it will include anti-slavery information, such as the number of our free Helpline 08000 121 700. 

The campaign currently consists of films and other social media posts that encourage Twitter users to tweet operators Vodaphone, E3, O2 and Three, asking them to create a customised welcome message. 

You can see the welcome text we’re suggesting and some of the social media posts pictured above.   

If you have a Twitter account, search the hashtag #GetTheMessage or go to www.getthemessage.uk and add your voice to the campaign.  

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Justine Currell

As I came to understand more about the issue, including through a visit to an Unseen safehouse, I knew I needed to do more to stop this abuse and exploitation.

For the last five years of my Civil Service career, I was the Modern Slavery Senior Policy Advisor in the Home Office and led on development of the Modern Slavery Act, including the transparency in supply chains provision and business guidance.

I joined Unseen to lead the development of the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline, and Unseen’s work with businesses. I am regularly called upon to present at national and international conferences and use my experience of working with Ministers to influence other governments internationally to take action to address modern slavery and, in particular, business supply chain issues.

In my spare time I enjoy keeping fit, music, reading and travelling.

Andrew Wallis

What ultimately compelled me to act was a report on how people from Eastern Europe were being trafficked through Bristol airport to the USA. Kate Garbers, who went on to be an Unseen Director, and I wrote to all the city councillors, MPs and the Police Chief Constable challenging them on the issue. The challenge came back to us: this city needs safe housing for trafficked women. And so Unseen began.

But we never wanted Unseen to be just about safe housing. We wanted to end slavery once and for all, and that remains our driving focus.

I chaired the working group for the Centre for Social Justice’s landmark report “It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to Fight Modern Slavery”. This is now acknowledged as the catalyst behind the UK’s Modern Slavery Act of 2015. It was a great honour to be awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours that year. On the other hand, I’ve also been described as “the loveliest disrupter you could ever hope to meet”.

This job has taken me from building flat-pack furniture for safehouses, to working with businesses to address slavery in supply chains, to delivering training, raising awareness and advising governments around the world.

When not at work, I enjoy travelling, spending time with my dog Harley, cooking, supporting Liverpool and Yorkshire CC, music (I’m a former DJ) and endurance events such as the Three Peaks Challenge and Tribe Freedom Runs – which I vow never to do again. Until the next time.