Enfuce, a Finnish cloud-powered fintech, has partnered with Visa and French social enterprise Welcome.Place, to distribute prepaid Visa cards to refugees who arrived in France in 2022.
The Welcome.Place pilot project initially focuses on Ukrainian refugees who arrived in France after the start of Ukraine’s war. According to the United Nations, an estimated eight million people have fled Ukraine since. Around 120,000 of those have arrived in France registered under official national assistance programmes.
Welcome.Place’s ‘Welcome Package’ is distributed to newcomers in France. Refugees and immigrants receive a prepaid Visa card to facilitate spending on necessary items and services during their first weeks in the country.
Welcome.Place was established in 2022 as a community-driven neobank. It aimed to provide simple, inclusive and accessible financial solutions for all newcomers to help them settle quickly. Non-government organisations (NGOs) and companies are able to offer their newcomer community banking and financial solutions provided by Welcome.Place and its partners.
Finnish card and mobile solution provider Epassi is also involved and will issue the cards. The cards are pre-loaded with funds, aiming to help refugees purchase basic necessities.
Enfuce and Epassi plan to facilitate all card issuing and physical card distribution. Enfuce’s cloud-based processing platform also enables Welcome.Place to remotely and instantly set full spending controls on each card. The social enterprise is able to set where and how cards can be used. The cards offer them full tracking and monitoring of spending.
The cards can be blocked from usage in certain merchant category codes such as gambling and gaming. Spending limits can also be changed in real-time to enable purchases at approved locations.
Welcome.Place’s ambitions to expand its scope
Katherine Brown, VP and head of inclusive impact and sustainability of Visa, commented on the pilot. She explained: “This pilot represents an incredibly important step in advancing the financial and social inclusion of displaced people in Europe.
“Accelerating access to the mainstream monetary system improves prospects for rebuilding a life in a new environment, and therefore Visa is proud to work with Enfuce to enable a Welcome.Place to those affected by forced displacement.”
Rooh Savar, co-founder and CEO of Welcome.Place, explained his motivations for starting the initiative. He said: “In 2009, when I arrived in France as a refugee, I didn’t have a bank account while I had a few income assets. But when I had no more cash, I was not able to buy anything. After a few months, I was finally able to open a bank account. However, this was without a card that allowed me to withdraw money from ATMs or pay in stores or online.
“This situation lasted for over a year and negatively impacted my personal and professional life. We created Welcome.Place to make sure that every newcomer could have access to banking solutions suited to his/her situation.”
When the pilot project sees completion, Welcome.Place expects that a larger contract will later be signed in 2023 to expand the scale of the program. It hopes to serve greater numbers of refugees, alongside partnering with more NGO and commercial partners.
Helping refugees to ‘rebuild their lives’
Denise Johansson, co-founder and co-CEO of Enfuce, commented on the work Enfuce is doing to support. She said: “We’re delighted to partner with Welcome.Place to assist them with the vital work they’re doing, and with our partners Epassi and Visa, we’re committed to ensuring refugees have access to the funds they need through a prepaid card that looks and works like a mainstream bank card.
“Enfuce’s First Aid card has been designed to help aid organisations distribute money to the people who need it, immediately, securely, and in full compliance with regulatory demands. Not only does the card programme give Welcome.Place full control of how donated funds are distributed and spent, most importantly it gives refugees the means to rebuild their lives and become financially included.”
Monika Liikamaa, also co-founder and co-CEO of Enfuce, explained the need to assist refugees in maintaining their “dignity and privacy”. Liikamaa commented: “Whether it’s through conflict or climate emergencies, millions of people depend on humanitarian assistance that can be delivered quickly and securely.
“Refugees may have a fear of appearing vulnerable, or feel shame about waiting in line for cash hand-outs. When they have suffered so much already, it’s vital to give aid recipients dignity and privacy.
“Enfuce’s First Aid card is an example of how modern, integrated payment solutions can transform humanitarian aid delivery. It can improve operational speed and security, and promote financial inclusion.”