Concern grows about human traffickers targeting vulnerable Ukrainian refugees
A man has been arrested in Poland on suspicion of raping a 19-year-old refugee who had lured her with offers of shelter after she fled war-torn Ukraine. Another was heard promising a promising job and room for a 16-year-old girl before authorities intervened.
Another case inside a refugee camp on the Polish border of Medica raised suspicions when a man was providing assistance only to women and children. When the police questioned him, he changed his story.
With millions of women and children fleeing across Ukraine’s borders in the face of Russian aggression, concerns are growing about how to protect the most vulnerable refugees from being targeted by human traffickers or becoming victims of other forms of exploitation.
“It’s clear that all the refugees are women and children,” said Jung-Ah Gidini Williams, head of global communications at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who visited the borders in Romania, Poland and Moldova.
“You have to worry about any potential risks of trafficking – but also exploitation, sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. These are the kinds of situations that people traffickers like … are looking to take advantage of,” she said.
More than 2.5 million people, including more than a million children, have already fled war-torn Ukraine in what has become an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Europe and the fastest mass exodus since World War Two, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says.
In countries across Europe, including border countries like Romania, Poland, Hungary, Moldova and Slovakia, citizens and volunteers have been welcoming and offering help to those whose lives have been torn apart by war. From free shelter to free transportation to job opportunities and other forms of assistance – help is not far away.
But there are no risks.
Police in Wroclaw, Poland, said Thursday they had arrested a 49-year-old suspect on rape charges after he allegedly assaulted a 19-year-old Ukrainian refugee who lured him through online offers of help. Authorities said the suspect could face up to 12 years in prison for the “brutal crime”.
“He met the girl by offering his assistance through an online portal,” police said in a statement. She fled war-torn Ukraine, not speaking Polish. She trusted a man who promised to help and shelter her. Unfortunately, all this turned out to be deceptive manipulation. ”
Police in Berlin warned women and children in a social media post in Ukrainian and Russian not to accept overnight offers, and urged them to report anything suspicious.
Such a rapid mass exodus of people could be a “recipe for disaster,” said Tamara Barnett, director of operations at the Human Trafficking Foundation, a UK-based charity that grew out of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking.
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