No sooner had the first missiles been fired over the skies in Ukraine and thousands of people began to flee, than there was evidence that criminal gangs linked to human trafficking were on the move along border routes.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM ) around 1.5 million children, who are especially vulnerable to human trafficking, have fled Ukraine.
In a statement, the agency said: “Instances of sexual violence have already been reported and among the individuals promising onward transportation or services, there have been indications of potential exploitation.”
Aid agencies like Caritas Ukraine are supporting women and children crossing the border into neighbouring countries like Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary, to try to prevent human trafficking.
“Right now, there is a very high risk that people might become a human slave,” said Vladyslav Shelokov, Caritas Ukraine’s Resource Mobilisation Director.
Risks to refugees
Sr Imelda Poole, IBVM, is President of RENATE, a network of women religious combatting human trafficking, and is based in Albania. Speaking to Vatican Radio, she said there have been accounts of transnational criminal gangs working in vans along these routes.
“Women and children are really vulnerable, and also we do know from our sisters and colleagues working in Ukraine itself that sadly even in the basements where refugees are trying to keep safe there seemed to be some risks there too, and there have been some known rapes of women in the basements.”Ukraine