Statement on risks of trafficking and exploitation faced by refugees from Ukraine attributed to UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection

The Ukrainian refugee crisis is a protection crisis for women and children – they represent 90% of all those fleeing Ukraine across borders.

We know that the risks of gender-based violence, trafficking, abuse, psychological trauma and family separation increase in times of conflict and displacement, but given the gender profile of this influx of refugees and the fact that many children fled alone, these are now multiplied.

As is the case in emergency situations and due to the hidden nature of human trafficking, data is difficult to verify and it is impossible to assess the number of Ukrainian refugee women and children could have fallen prey to traffickers. So far, the known cases are fortunately few.

But we are on high alert and warning refugees of the risks of predators and criminal networks who may try to exploit their vulnerability or lure them in with promises of transport, accommodation, employment or other free forms of assistance.

Human trafficking, a crime in which a person is deceived, tricked or coerced into an exploitative situation for the private gain or benefit of another person, can take various forms, such as sexual or sexual exploitation. other forms of gender-based violence, forced labor, servitude or other slavery-like practices, forced begging or criminality.

National authorities are actively leading the fight against human trafficking, but much more needs to be done to tackle this problem and mitigate the risks. Humanitarians, including UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and others, are strengthening their capacity to support national efforts, in collaboration with partners.

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

Verification systems also need to be strengthened to register and screen organizations, businesses and individual volunteers providing support to refugees. This includes buses and minivans that transport refugees free of charge from border points and to other European countries. Refugees must be able to travel safely without fear that criminal networks will take advantage of their plight. While the generosity and solidarity towards Ukrainian refugees has been inspiring, states must prevent predatory individuals and criminal networks from exploiting the situation.

We urge border control and law enforcement officials, as well as social services, in the region and beyond, to strengthen efforts to combat trafficking, early detection and prevention of trafficking activities. organizations to educate and support those who are abused or exploited, and ensure that perpetrators are promptly brought to justice and victims are compensated for the harm suffered.

UNHCR works closely with host governments who are responsible for registering refugees and supporting the identification of refugees at risk, human trafficking risk assessment through protection monitoring, the deployment of specialized personnel and the training of volunteers on protection against exploitation and abuse, trafficking and discrimination based on gender. violence. From the start, UNHCR also Ilaunched a “Stay Safe” awareness campaign to inform Ukrainian refugees of the risks and offer advice on how to stay safe.

Together with national authorities and our partners, including UNICEF, we are also rolling out one-stop safe spaces for children and families as well as others who need specialist assistance in countries neighboring Ukraine. . Known as ‘blue dots’, these are centers for protection, information and referral services. They also offer accurate and up-to-date information to refugees, so they can make informed choices about travel and travel options and guide them to services.

In Ukraine, UNHCR and other humanitarian partners are working to ensure the dissemination of awareness messages to the public, particularly at border points and in places where people have been displaced. These messages also contain information on accessing free anti-trafficking hotlines.

A concerted effort by national authorities, law enforcement, NGOs, aid workerss and the refugees themselves, is necessary to prevent abuses and violations of the rights of all refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.

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