Statement by the UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner on the risks of trafficking and exploitation of refugees from Ukraine

Statement by the UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner on the risks of trafficking and exploitation of refugees from Ukraine

We know that the risks of gender-based violence, human trafficking, assault, psychological trauma and family separation increase during conflicts and transitions, but given the gender profile of this refugee flow and the fact that many children have fled alone, these have now been reported.

As in emergencies and due to the covert nature of human trafficking, data are difficult to ascertain and it is impossible to estimate how many Ukrainian refugee women and children may have been caught by traffickers. Fortunately, the cases known so far are few.

However, we are vigilant and warn refugees of the risks of predators and criminal networks that may try to exploit their vulnerability or entice them with promises of free transportation, accommodation, employment or other assistance.

Trafficking in human beings, a crime in which a person is deceived, imprisoned or coerced into exploitation for the personal gain or benefit of another, can take various forms, such as sexual exploitation or other gender-based violence, forced labor, domestic slavery or other slavery-like practices, forced begging or crime.

National authorities are actively leading efforts to combat trafficking in human beings, but more needs to be done to address this problem and reduce the risks. Humanitarian actors, including the UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and others, will increase their capacity to support national efforts in cooperation with partners.

All neighboring and affected countries must ensure the immediate identification, registration, protection and appropriate care of children traveling alone or separated from their parents and families. States should find solutions in the best interests of these children and expand national child protection systems to meet their needs.

Inspection systems also need to be strengthened for the registration and screening of organizations, companies and individual volunteers providing support to refugees. This includes buses and minivans that transport refugees free of charge from the border area and on to other European countries. Refugees must be able to travel safely without having to worry about criminal networks exploiting their desperate situation. While generosity and solidarity with Ukrainian refugees has been inspiring, states need to prevent predators and criminal networks from taking advantage of the situation.

We call on border and law enforcement authorities and social services inside and outside the region to strengthen anti-trafficking measures, from early detection and prevention of crime to reaching and supporting exploited or exploited people. ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice promptly and that victims are compensated.

UNHCR works closely with host governments responsible for refugee registration and supports the identification of refugees at risk, the assessment of the risks of trafficking in human beings through protection monitoring, the deployment of expert personnel and the training of volunteers to protect against exploitation, trafficking and gender. violence. Early on, UNHCR also launched an “Stay Safe” awareness campaign to inform Ukrainian refugees about the risks and provide tips for staying safe.

Together with national authorities and partners, including UNICEF, we are also introducing one-stop shelters for children and families, as well as others in need of special assistance in Ukraine’s neighboring countries. Points known as “blue dots” are the focus of security services, data, and referrals. They also provide refugees with accurate and up-to-date information so that they can make informed choices about moving forward and travel options and refer them to services.

In Ukraine, UNHCR and other humanitarian partners are working to ensure that awareness-raising messages are disseminated to the public, especially in border areas and places where people have been displaced. These messages also include information on access to free anti-trafficking hotlines.

The joint efforts of national authorities, law enforcement agencies, NGOs, humanitarian workers and the refugees themselves are needed to prevent abuses and violations of the rights of all refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Source: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Source: The Nordic Page

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