How Ukrainian refugee women can avoid becoming victims of human traffickers

Women and children from Ukraine who fled the war to the countries EUcan become easy prey for human traffickers, the OSCE warns.

What you need to know to avoid becoming a victim of sexual exploitation Deutsche Welle.

Valiant Ritchie, OSCE Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, warned at a briefing in Brussels on May 17: a mass exodus from Ukraine abroad of women and children who left their homes in a hurry, often do not know a foreign language and do not have sufficient financial means to residence will lead to a rapid increase in the number of victims of human trafficking among Ukrainians.

Of particular concern to international organizations is the fact that modern slave traders actively use social networks and special online resources in their activities, disguised, for example, as sites for social assistance or assistance in finding work for refugees from Ukraine.

Media company Thomson Reuters published data according to which online traffic since February 24, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, shows a significant increase in searches for sex services of Ukrainian women – from different countries and in different languages. At the same time, the number of search queries “Ukrainian escort” increased to 200%, and “Ukrainian porn” to 600%. Valiant Ritchie notes that the data presented indicates an increase in demand “for sexual access to Ukrainian women, and this demand will serve as an impetus for traffickers to involve in their illegal business and exploit women from Ukraine.”

The OSCE has already developed the necessary recommendations and advises the relevant services and law enforcement agencies that counteract human trafficking to carefully monitor the Internet space to identify dangerous platforms. Experts also advise conducting information campaigns for Ukrainian refugees, reporting on the possible risks of various forms of human trafficking. It is very important, Ritchie notes, that the authorities of countries with a significant number of Ukrainian refugees provide them with access to social housing, the labor market, language courses, schools and kindergartens, which will make them less vulnerable:

“We also encourage governments to create hotlines where refugees from Ukraine can get all the necessary information in their native language.”

Ritchie notes that the criminals “have developed ways of attracting victims and ways of human trafficking even before the start of the war.” The threat does not lie in wait for women immediately after entering the EU, as many law enforcement officers and representatives of international humanitarian organizations work in the border zone. The danger arises when a woman with children enters the country she has chosen for temporary residence, the OSCE representative explains:

“Usually, at that point, she may run out of money and find herself alone in an unfamiliar place, without friends and support, which makes her a potential prey for human traffickers.”

He gives Ukrainian women some advice, following which you can significantly reduce the risk of becoming a victim of human trafficking. First and foremost, do not give your documents to anyone, this will make you defenseless in a foreign country:

“Therefore, never give your documents to anyone. This is very important. Not only do they prove your identity, on the basis of these documents you receive temporary protection and social assistance in the country in which you arrived.”

The second rule, the expert emphasizes, is to rely exclusively on official sources of information and contact only official hotlines. Equally important, Richie advises, stay in groups for women, and choose accommodations and vehicles that offer official services for accommodation and transportation.

True, it is worth considering that thousands of Europeans, with a noble desire to help Ukrainians, come to the stations of their cities and offer refugees to live with them for free. Undoubtedly, it can be very difficult to determine exactly what intentions control a person, says Valiant Ritchie:

“Just a few months ago, no one could have imagined that the EU was capable of accepting several million refugees, but it happened and became a demonstration of the best feelings of Europeans towards Ukrainians.”

In order to avoid possible abuses of the position and defenselessness of refugees from Ukraine, the OSCE recommends that the authorities of countries register cases when citizens provide them with private housing.

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