With millions fleeing war torn Ukraine, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has cautioned about trafficking in persons as well as sexual exploitation and abuse in the country as well as in the entire region.
As per the latest data, over three million people have fled the country and more are leaving as war continues in the region.
The UN agency says that deteriorating humanitarian situation and resulting large scale and complex movements correlate with an increase in threat to personal safety and putting people on the move at heightened risk of exploitation. The IOM states that it is hard to identify human trafficking in the immediate aftermath of mass displacement. However, the agency points out that initial reports from within and outside of Ukraine indicate the potential for traffickers to exploit the vulnerabilities of those fleeing the war.
The IOM also talks of Instances of sexual violence and there have been instances of potential exploitation among the individuals promising forward transportation or services.
Meanwhile, the IMO said that individuals and community members providing transportation and accommodation assistance should do so in coordination with local protection agencies. They should facilitate registration and share contact details, transportation routes and accommodation locations to enable appropriate oversight and safeguarding.
IOM Director General Antonio Vitorino said: “IOM reports show that people fleeing Ukraine are predominately from single-headed households including women, children and older persons – some of whom are unaccompanied and separated – and third-country nationals.”
“These groups can be especially vulnerable to the risk of trafficking as they leave their homes unexpectedly and might have their usual family networks and financial security seriously disrupted.”
WHAT IS IOM DOING?
In 2021, IOM in Ukraine identified and assisted over 1,000 victims of trafficking. In response to the war in Ukraine, the Organization has scaled up its efforts to establish resources and interventions to prevent trafficking in persons both in Ukraine and among those on the move throughout the region.
IOM is collaborating with border agencies and government partners to implement trafficking prevention mechanisms such as dissemination and inclusion of protection messaging, providing verified and safe information and raising awareness to empower refugees and third-country nationals to make informed decisions and be aware of risks
The Organization has also reinforced regional hotlines to equip people on the move with important safety and resource information IOM in Ukraine Romania and the Republic of Moldova have developed online materials related to safe migration and counter trafficking, which connect people fleeing Ukraine with vital accommodation, transportation, and trafficking reporting resources
WHAT IOM STRESSES?
The IOM encourages States to receive arrivals from Ukraine in a non-discriminatory, gender-sensitive and culturally sensitive manner without bias based on nationality, ethnicity, or status of documentation. International humanitarian and human rights law must be upheld, they said.
“We stress the need for a collective response in terms of capacity building appropriately collecting evidence providing technical guidance and above all direct assistance to all victims and those vulnerable to violence exploitation, and abuse.
IOM said that it strongly recommended that third-country nationals are granted protection and have access facilitated to their respective consular authorities