From file: People with children wait in line at the Ukraine -Romania border crossing not far from the city of Chernivtsi, Ukraine, 10 March 2022 | Photo: Archive EPA / SERGEY DOLZHENKO
From file: People with children wait in line at the Ukraine -Romania border crossing not far from the city of Chernivtsi, Ukraine, 10 March 2022 | Photo: Archive EPA / SERGEY DOLZHENKO

UNICEF is sounding the alarm over the risk that children fleeing the war in Ukraine could be trafficked and exploited. More than 1.5 million minors have fled the country since the beginning of the conflict.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, over 1.5 million children have been forced to leave their country, according to the UN childrens' fund UNICEF. In many cases they are accompanied only by their mothers, or, in some cases, an aunt or grandmother. But there are also children who cross the border without an adult by their side.

UNICEF on June 28 raised the alarm about the risk of trafficking or exploitation for unaccompanied minors. The organization said that at the beginning of the war, between February 24 an March 17, it had identified more than 500 unaccompanied children travelling from Ukraine to Romania. "The number of children separated" from family members who have "fled Ukraine towards neighboring countries is probably much higher."

Governments must implement measures to protect children

"The war in Ukraine is bringing massive movements and flows of refugees, conditions that could lead to a significant increase in human trafficking and an acute child protection crisis," explained Afshan Khan, UNICEF's regional director for Europe and Central Asia. He went on to say that displaced children who have been separated from their families are extremely vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.

"They need the region's governments to step forward and to implement measures to keep them safe", said Khan.

The vulnerability of children fleeing the conflict in Ukraine should be evaluated once they cross into a neighboring country, the official went on to said. "Every effort needs to be made to strengthen screenening processes of refugees at border crossings."

In order to safeguard minors, UNICEF -- which has drafted a guide on how to prevent trafficking and exploitation -- has organized, in collaboration with UNHCR, governments and other organizations, the so-called 'Blue Dots', safe spaces for women and children.

'Blue Dots' provide "fundamental information to travelling families, helping them identify unaccompanied and separated children and to guarantee their protection, and provide a hub for essential services," wrote UNICEF.

The 'Blue Dots' have already been created in countries hosting Ukrainian women and children and will be increased over the next few days, including 34 in Poland, says UNICEF.

 

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