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Fears as vulnerable people fleeing Ukraine are targeted by human traffickers

Human Trafficking
10 March 2022
Ukraine refugees

As Ukrainian women and children cross into neighbouring countries such as Poland, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary campaigners are worried that there will be a ‘disturbing spike in human trafficking.’

Speaking with MailOnline, Lauren Agnew Human Trafficking Policy Officer for CARE said:

“The war in Ukraine will create a worsening situation in terms of human trafficking.

“It is certain that as time goes on, we will see a spike in numbers caused by refugees being exploited by traffickers and ending up potentially as sex workers, involved in criminal gangs or forced labour and domestic slavery.

“The countries the refugees are fleeing into are hotspots for criminal gangs and they will see these people as a rich source for them to be exploited.

“These gangs prey on the precariousness of refugees and the war is a business opportunity for them to make a profit and get people into Europe and ultimately the UK.”

Ms Agnew added:

“Human traffickers will be waiting in the wings to exploit the situation in Poland, and elsewhere in countries neighbouring Ukraine.

“We have seen that the majority of people coming over are women and children, men are restricted from leaving the country, so it means this group is more vulnerable.”

There have been reports of people offering transport to refugees for free only to be ordered to pay for their travel on arrival, which they are not able to do, forcing them into debt and forced labour.

An Aid Worker in a reception centre set up in Poland, Rafal Wlodek, told MailOnline that they are building a “trusted list of people who can transport women and children.”

While Joanna Garnier, spokesperson for the National Consulting and Intervention for Victims of Trafficking, based in Warsaw, reports that women are being handed flyers warning them of the dangers and work is being done with the national police in Warsaw to monitor the situation as many Polish people want to help, but others want to exploit.

CARE continues to lobby MPs for laws that greater protect victims of human trafficking. We are calling for the UK Government to step up their efforts to spot and prevent crime given the situation in Ukraine.

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