War refugees from Ukraine upon arrival at the Humanitarian Aid Center in Przemysl, Poland | Photo: Darek Delmanowicz / Archive / EPA
War refugees from Ukraine upon arrival at the Humanitarian Aid Center in Przemysl, Poland | Photo: Darek Delmanowicz / Archive / EPA

UNHCR has reported that known cases of human trafficking from the war in Ukraine "are thankfully few", but "we are on high alert and warning refugees about the risks of predators and criminal networks."

Data is difficult to ascertain during emergencies, said Gillian Triggs, the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection on Wednesday, April 13. "Owing to the hidden nature of human trafficking, it is impossible to gauge how many Ukrainian refugee women and children might have been preyed upon by traffickers," said Gillian Triggs, highlighting once again the risk of human trafficking as a consequence of the war in Ukraine.

"So far, known cases are thankfully few. But we are on high alert and warning refugees about the risks of predators and criminal networks who may attempt to exploit their vulnerability or lure them with promises of free transport, accommodation, employment or other forms of assistance," she added.

'More needs to be done to tackle this problem'

"National authorities are actively leading the response to counter human trafficking, but more needs to be done to tackle this problem and mitigate risks", said Triggs."Humanitarians, including UNHCR, and others are scaling up their capacity to support national efforts, in collaboration with partners. All neighboring and impacted countries must ensure the immediate identification, registration, protection and appropriate care of children traveling on their own or separated from their parents and families. States should find solutions in the best interests of these children and scale up national child protection systems to respond to their needs," she added.

According to the UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner, "vetting systems must also be strengthened to register and screen organizations, companies and individual volunteers offering support to refugees. This includes buses and minivans that are transporting refugees for free from border points and onwards to other European countries."

Triggs continued that "refugees need to be able to travel safely without being worried about criminal networks taking advantage of their desperate situation. While the generosity and solidarity towards Ukrainian refugees has been inspiring, states must prevent predatory individuals and criminal networks from exploiting the situation."

UNHCR urges the scaling up of anti-trafficking efforts

"We urge border control and law enforcement officials, as well as social services, in the region and beyond, to strengthen anti-trafficking efforts, from early detection and prevention of criminal activity, to outreach and support for those who are abused or exploited, and ensuring perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice, and victims compensated for harm suffered", said Triggs.

 

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