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Preventing human trafficking of refugees from Ukraine

May 9, 2022 / Evidence in Practice, Our Reports The Freedom Fund / @freedom_fund

A rapid assessment of risks and gaps in the anti-trafficking response

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to the largest movement of people in Europe since the Second World War. Organised criminal groups and individual profiteers are taking advantage of the turmoil to target vulnerable Ukrainians for sexual and labour exploitation.

To better understand which groups of people are particularly at risk and why, Freedom Fund partnered with La Strada International, a European anti-trafficking NGO platform, to undertake a rapid assessment of the current gaps in the counter-trafficking response.

La Strada’s research, conducted over the past two months, found that unaccompanied children, undocumented people and those who might not have access to the temporary protection offered in EU countries face the greatest danger. And the dangers will grow as the war continues, with more people becoming displaced within Ukraine, making access to services and livelihoods increasingly precarious, while millions of refugees will need to settle for longer periods in other European countries and start accessing the labour market.

While governments, international organisations, civil society, and community leaders have taken steps to protect people from trafficking, the report says gaps remain, due to limited capacity to deliver. These gaps include:

  • Uncoordinated information provided by different organisations creating confusion for people who are already distressed and disoriented
  • Refugees reluctant or waiting to register for temporary protection in their country of arrival, leaving them with no access to legal employment, housing, a basic income and other protection and support
  • Lack of psychosocial support – many refugees have experienced severe trauma, with organisations mentioning psychosocial support as the most pressing need
  • Lack of resources and funding – civil society is already overburdened, understaffed and under-resourced as needs are set to rise.

The report makes a series of recommendations for governments, international organisations, NGOs and donors, designed to address these gaps and needs in the anti-trafficking response in Ukraine and its neighbouring countries. It also urges investment in training frontline responders on how to identify trafficking; systems to register and vet those who are offering assistance, housing, transport and other services; mandatory checks of accommodation to ensure it is suitable and safe; and official websites that promote verified job opportunities for refugees to reduce risks of labour exploitation.

Click below to read the full set of recommendations.

Freedom Fund