Vodafone Ireland has scrapped its offer of free calls and texts to Ukrainian refugees trying to keep in touch with family and friends back home in their war-torn country.
People fleeing the Russian invasion were given phone chargers and SIM cards from major mobile operators Vodafone, Eir and Three when they arrived at Dublin Airport in March last year.
However, Vodafone Ireland is withdrawing the offer due to “war fatigue” among company decision-makers, according to a company executive who spoke to the company Irish Independent.
“Unfortunately, from the company’s point of view, there is no longer any value in offering Ukrainians free cell phone services,” the executive said.
“It now costs companies more money to run, and the PR junk has long since evaporated.”
Vodafone’s offering of free services to Ukrainian refugees was first launched on February 26, two days after Russia invaded their country.
Announcing the free roaming, Anne O’Leary, Managing Director of Vodafone Ireland, said the company wanted “to express our deepest regret, sorrow and sympathy to the war affected population, as well as to our affected customers and employees”.
Ms O’Leary is leaving Vodafone Ireland to take up a senior role at Meta in September, a move the company announced last month.
A Vodafone spokesman said free roaming services to Ukraine were introduced as a “temporary measure”.
“Since the beginning of the war, Vodafone has been offering free calls and SMS to Ukraine and prepaid SIMs for refugees in all our European markets,” the spokesman said.
“Free roaming in Ukraine has been introduced as a temporary measure to help people connect with family and friends while settling in Ireland.
“We continue to support the provision of SIMs with free credit for those arriving here.”
The Vodafone Foundation coordinates a number of refugee aid measures across Europe.
This includes cash donations from employees and non-profit organizations in support of United Nations efforts in Ukraine, as well as free connectivity, charging stations and Wi-Fi on the go through the Instant Network program.
In the UK, the provider was even more generous.
Vodafone UK pledged to offer 200,000 refugees SIM cards with 20GB of free data a month for six months, as well as access to free calls and texts.
In April, An Post announced that any Ukrainian national presenting at a local post office would be given an Irish SIM card with three months’ credit, three months of unlimited data and free calls to Ukrainian mobile and landlines.
An Post also enabled Ukrainians to send and receive money from Ukraine for free through its partner Western Union.
Ireland has so far taken in around 42,000 refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, most of them women and children.
Earlier this month it emerged that Ireland had run out of government accommodation for incoming Ukrainian refugees, resulting in them being temporarily housed in tents at Gormanston military camp in Co Meath.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/vodafone-axes-free-calls-for-ukrainian-refugees-as-pr-value-of-scheme-wears-off-41875346.html Vodafone cuts free calls for Ukrainian refugees as program’s PR value wanes