Ukrainian refugees could fall victim to human trafficking schemes, advocates warn
Women who flee from Ukraine run the risk of becoming victims of human trafficking in the Netherlands and could be exploited, or forced into prostitution, cautioned CoMensha, an Amersfoort organization that combats human trafficking. "Unfortunately, the first signs of human trafficking and exploitation are already reaching us. We don't actually see it happening yet, but all the risks are present," said Ina Hut, the CoMensha director.
Men are already asking about Ukrainian women in the sex industry on social media, Hut said. There are also single men who are looking for a Ukrainian woman to marry. "And when a train with Ukrainian refugees arrives, men gather on the platform around the women to make contact with them. Human trafficking is lurking."
Refugees are already vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking, she said. Many women and children are among the Ukrainian refugees are especially, because men between the ages of 18 and 60 are not allowed to leave the country. Host families are screened to prevent the refugees from ending up with people with the wrong intentions.
The greatest danger are Ukrainian women who have been picked up at the border by someone they somewhat know, and who they completely don't know at all. Because they are Ukrainian, they can live and work in the Netherlands right away. They do not always register, so the government does not necessarily know they are in the country. "That group falls off the radar, and is even more dependent on others. We must all be alert to that," said Hut.
Pedophiles could also abuse the refugee flow to bring Ukrainian children to the Netherlands. "There is a big risk in that. It is a potential scenario that is unfortunately very realistic," said Hut.
CoMensha, together with other organizations, produced flyers which are used to warn refugees and aid workers in Ukrainian, English and Dutch. The advice includes telling people to never hand over their identification, that they should take pictures when traveling with someone, and that they should always carry cash with them. The flyers can be found at the refugee reception locations, and other facilities.
A police spokesperson said there have been no reports of human trafficking or exploitation to date, "but that doesn't mean it isn't already happening. The risk to this group is undeniable." Police are "on the lookout" for signs of exploitation of Ukrainians.
Reporting by ANP