The executive director of Finnish Refugee Aid urged Finns to donate only to actors whose networks and methods of operation are well established in the aided country.
The beginning of the war in Ukraine caused a great desire to help the Finns. Many got excited about offering rides to both the refugees and the relief supplies. Social media was full of hero stories.
Since then, abuses have also come to the fore in the aid work. At the beginning of the war, for example, Timo Kangsti, who appeared publicly as a defender without holding back, rushed to help the Ukrainians, and Ilta-Sanomat published a comprehensive report on his activities over the weekend. . Allegations of financial impropriety and unfair treatment of refugee women emerged from the executive director’s background. Kangsti vehemently denied the allegations of impropriety on Ilta-sanom.
Read more: Timo, 35, boarded a bus to save Ukrainians – now things have emerged about him that don’t fit the hero’s story
Suomen Pakolaisavu executive director Annu Lehtinen doesn’t find it surprising that a grassroots aid campaign run by a private individual later discovers abuse. He comments on the event on a general level.
– At the beginning of the war, as it should have been, that is, we focused on the great desire to help and how important help was for Ukrainians at that time. But that help also involved great risks. Above all, because the situation on the frontier was so chaotic in the early stages of the war.
After the war broke out, aides from many different countries, many private refugee pickers and private goods carriers appeared at the crowded Ukrainian border. There were so many departures that many Ukrainians had no choice but to rely on an unknown private driver.
In such a situation, there is a big danger that among those who help, there are those people who have taken nothing but exploitation with them.
Most of the people who fled Ukraine were women and children. And as always in refugee situations, women and children walking alone are at particular risk of becoming victims of all kinds of profiteering and crime.
Abuse happens online too. The British newspaper The Guardian reported on a report published in March, according to which Ukrainian refugees are increasingly being subjected to sexual abuse. In a story published in March of last year, STT reported how Ukrainians fleeing war are being lured to become sex workers through social media channels and duped online, for example by offering jobs from well-known Finnish companies. By offering
Should aid activities be monitored more closely than at present in Finland? According to Lehtinen, it will be challenging, even if it seems necessary.
– We do not have centralized monitoring or supervision of private aid actors, especially this type of activity, which may be aimed at Ukraine on its own initiative. Of course, it is tried, but it is difficult, especially at a time when the desire to help is strong enough.
Monitoring would require a centralized register, to which individual helpers would commit in one way or another. But even then, monitoring all the self helpers will not be successful.
Lehtinen also reminds that not all aid activities of private individuals are questionable, but also required. However, he urges Finns to ask some basic questions before donating. It is not enough to reach the border by bus, but after that you also need help to reach there.
– Are grants used as announced? Is Fundraising Legal? Does the activity focus on the type of aid or goods that is really needed in the target country? Do the facilitators have local networks and trusted partners through whom the help can be implemented? Lists the sheets.
Even though the worst of the chaos on the Ukrainian border has already subsided, there are still those taking advantage of the situation among the helpers. According to Lehtinen, abuses may have just changed their nature, and abuse may be more systematic. As long as there are people wanting to help Ukraine financially, there will also be people trying to take advantage of the situation.
– For help, it is worth using established institutions that have a solid base for operations and networks, be they organizations or parishes or others. Namely, institutions that have a proven reputation, and assistance is provided in accordance with all permits.
– Then the charity reaches the people the help is meant to actually reach.