Law enforcement agency Europol said in a press statement that it conducted a joint action day exploring the danger of exploitation which Ukrainian refugee women can be exposed to. Several potential human traffickers were identified as part of the coordinated effort.
The EU agency foraged through various forums looking for offers of assistance to refugees from Ukraine, including employment sites, dating apps and sexual platforms. Europol said that many Ukrainians were at risk of being pulled in with "offers of a 'bright future' which tricked them into sexual exploitation."
Investigators checked 125 online platforms in 14 countries, identifying nine suspected human traffickers as well as nine potential victims during a coordinated joint action day on May 23, which was led by the Netherlands. Nearly 42 suspicious online platforms were also identified during the operation, which Europol referred to as a "hackathon." Fifteen investigations have also been launched.
"Suspicious activities were detected in a wide range of platforms, including in the Russian language," the press statement read, adding that the investigation had "found a significant number of suspicious job offers targeting Ukrainian women," offering "photo shoots" and using other pretences to lure vulnerable Ukrainian refugees for potential exploitation.
Europol stated that the action day opened up new insights into the dealings of human traffickers, especially those searching specifically for Ukrainian victims online.
European host nations remain vigilant
In March already, the agency had issued a warning saying Ukrainian refugees were at a high risk of falling prey to human traffickers when they arrived in the European Union, urging host nations to be watchful.
There have been repeated reports about predators hiding behind accommodation offers, especially earlier in the year. In April, UNHCR had also sounded alarm about the same risk.
With dpa, AFP, Europol