Before exploitation, Victor* was employed as a truck driver, an unstable job that kept him away from his wife for long stretches and provided little financial earnings. “This was a job that provided no future prospects for me in Ukraine. I only travelled from point A to point B,” Victor commented. “I felt that the endless road I drove was in fact a dead end for my family,” he added. As a newlywed, Victor felt a lot of pressure to search for better opportunities in order to provide for his family.

In 2016, like many thousands of other migrant workers from Ukraine, Victor searched for a more promising employment opportunity abroad. He went to the Russian Federation with the promise that he would earn enough money to start his own automotive repair shop when he returned home. Unfortunately, Victor was exploited for forced labour. “You think that this will never happen to you, however, it comes unexpectedly and when you recognize it, you realize that it is too late,” Victor concluded. He spent 11 months under heavy surveillance, working in an automotive repair shop in exchange only for food. When Victor’s health deteriorated, his passport was returned and he was given RUB 1,000, only enough to get him to the Russian-Ukrainian border. Once back in Ukraine, Victor was not starting his business as he had hoped before his exploitation and in fact, his dreams were further than ever from being realized.

Shortly after Victor returned, he started receiving reintegration assistance, including psychological counseling, through a local NGO partner of IOM. They told him about IOM’s Economic Empowerment Programme available to trafficking survivors that assists in sustainable reintegration through self-employment opportunities. The programme, which has been supported with generous funding from international donors, trains trafficking survivors on business and career development and provides self-employment grants for those that develop and successfully defend a business plan after participation in the training. Victor decided to participate in the programme and successfully defended his business plan to start a powder coating shop.

“Powder coating is a process used to paint metal parts, such as household appliances and automobile and bicycle parts, and is more durable than conventional painting,” he explained. Victor opened his shop in the industrial part of town and the IOM grant helped him set up a full-fledged, operational system. A sand blasting machine, an electrostatic chamber, and a heating chamber provided by IOM allow Victor to complete the entire three-stage process and to be competitive in this market. This assistance was made possible with generous funding from the American people through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

In the sandblasting chamber, metal parts are polished by a propelled stream of sand powered by a specialized machine, creating a perfect surface for coating


Only four weeks after opening his shop, Victor was earning approximately UAH 5,500 per month and saw potential for a six-fold income increase. Most of his clients are owners of automobiles wanting to custom paint their cars and trucks or needing small touch ups, but his business is also near a metal forging shop, from whom he receives a steady stream of orders. Victor’s wife, Vlada*, is actively involved in promoting the business through social media and more traditional forms of advertising. In fact, a few weeks after opening, Victor is busy with many orders and already has thoughts of expanding. “My wife must be doing a great job with what she calls, targeted advertising,” said Victor proudly, emphasizing the duo’s shared success and teamwork. In the near future, Victor would like to hire a few employees and explore other opportunities to improve his business, in turn putting his trafficking experience further behind him.

In the electrostatic chamber powder is applied through a special spray gun, while an electric field makes powder stick onto the metal surface


Even though he went through a harrowing human trafficking experience, Victor is a real-life example of former victims’ resilience and of the importance of providing income generating opportunities within IOM’s reintegration programming.


The third and final stage is a heating chamber. The coating is finalized when powder is applied onto the metal surface and subjected to 200 degrees Celsius and once cooled creates a rock solid skin around the object


From January-June 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Mission in Ukraine identified and assisted 639 victims of trafficking who suffered from forced labour and sexual exploitation in 23 different countries, including Ukraine. This represents an increase of 30% compared to the victims identified in January-June 2016. IOM Ukraine has provided holistic reintegration assistance to almost 14,000 victims of trafficking since 2000 including legal aid, medical care, psychological counseling, family support, vocational training and additional assistance based on individual needs, which provides for sustainable recovery.  Almost 900 former victims have benefited from IOM’s Economic Empowerment Programme, creating hundreds of new jobs and contributing tens of thousands of hryvnias in local taxes.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy