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Visa and Enfuce pilot prepaid cards for refugees in France

The “First Aid” card will come with preloaded funds to help newcomers buy basic necessities when they arrive.

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Visa is piloting a project with card issuing and payment processing fintech Enfuce and neobank Welcome.Place to bring prepaid cards to refugees entering France.

Focusing predominantly on refugees from Ukraine who have arrived since the war started last February, the French social enterprise neobank Welcome.Place is also partnering with Epassi, a mobile payments provider for employment benefits, on the “First Aid” card.

Together, the companies have created a prepaid Visa card pre-loaded with funds for refugees and immigrants to spend on “a range of items and services” in their first few weeks after arrival.

The card will come as part of a “welcome package” for people arriving in France, distributed by Welcome.Place, which was established last year as a community-driver neobank to help newcomers settle as quickly as possible.

“In 2009, when I arrived in France as a refugee, I didn't have a bank account and I had a few income assets. But when I had no more cash, I was not able to buy anything,” Welcome.Place co-founder and CEO Rooh Savar said.

According to Savar, he was finally able to open a bank account after a few months, but he didn’t have a card he could use in stores, online or at ATMs. This lasted for more than a year.

“This new card can transform the lives of refugees arriving in Europe, empowering them with the dignity to buy what they need through a card that looks like any other bank card,” Welcome.Place co-founder Caroline Span said.

“The economic and social inclusion of newcomers and refugees normally takes five years to achieve – with the help of Enfuce and Visa, we can reduce this inclusion period to just one year.”

An estimated eight million people have fled Ukraine in the last 11 months, according to the United Nations, and around 120,000 people have been recorded in France.

Span said the aim is to help 50,000 Ukrainian and other refugees by the end of 2023.

Finnish fintechs Enfuce and Epasi will facilitate card issuing and physical card distribution, and the project is expected to expand this year to serve more refugees and bring onboard more NGO partners to widen the reach of the card programme.

“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,” Enfuce co-founder and co-CEO Denise Johansson said.

“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.”

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