More than 50 of the world’s most influential anti-trafficking organisations and leaders have come together to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the growing threat of human trafficking in the region.
They have signed an open letter that reads in part: “As long as the military invasion of Ukraine continues, the vulnerability of displaced people in the country to human trafficking will increase due to deteriorating rule of law and impunity; further forced displacement; humanitarian need and socio-economic stress and social fragmentation.
“Human trafficking will also escalate in the countries to which people from Ukraine are fleeing. There have also been deeply concerning reports of attempts to traffic women and girls fleeing Ukraine in neighbouring countries, including Poland and Romania.”
Signatories include the leaders of major anti-trafficking groups like Hope for Justice, The European Freedom Network, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), Unseen, Shared Hope, The Freedom Fund, Justice & Care, ECPAT (USA, UK and Norway), and many others from across the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe.
The signatories call for the Russian authorities to withdraw their troops immediately from Ukraine, and they call for investigations into potential war crimes, crimes against humanity and human rights violations associated with human trafficking. They call on the countries that are welcoming refugees to ensure they implement effective prevention measures against human trafficking. They list measures including training for frontline agencies; safe and legal routes for those who are fleeing; measures to more easily enable potential victims to be identified; trauma-informed and holistic care to be made available for survivors of trafficking; and steps taken to ensure perpetrator accountability. With these countries already doing so much to assist refugees, the signatories ask the wider international community to shoulder some of the financial burden of these vital measures.
The letter-writers say: “Human trafficking and conflict feed each other. By promising stability, security and employment, traffickers often appear to offer a greater prospect of hope for individuals who might have left everything behind.”
A study by U.N. agency the International Labour Organization estimated that human trafficking generates at least $150 billion in illicit profits every year for organised criminals, which further fuels global instability and insecurity.