Field Slaves Rescued in Ukraine: IOM and the Government Jointly Assist Trafficking Survivors

18 October 2019

Kyiv – Over 80 jobless Ukrainians were lured by promises of free accommodation and meals, as well as a salary up to USD 170, but found only abuse and labour exploitation. On the EU Anti-Trafficking Day, 18 October, the representatives of the Ministry of Social Policy, the Ministry of the Interior, the Security Service of Ukraine, Prosecutor General’s Office in Ukraine and International Organization for Migration revealed the details of a recently uncovered shocking case at a press conference in Kyiv. IOM is helping the Government to provide immediate assistance to the victims.

Oksana* lived in a village in the south of Ukraine with no jobs available in the district. She needed money for a surgery on her arm, so when a friend told her about a job opportunity with an agriculture enterprise in Odesa Region, she decided to take it despite her poor health condition. Oksana had to work in the field and at a canning plant. The working day started at 7 a.m. and lasted until late evening. Living conditions were extremely poor. The food provided by the employer was insufficient and of a low quality, so Oksana started having stomach issues.

Over the six month of work Oksana received no salary – the woman who was supervising the workers said everything they earned was spent on their food. The workers were under guard 24/7, and those who tried to escape from the fields were caught and beaten.

The mass scale trafficking case was uncovered this month by the National Police, with assistance from the Ministry of Social Policy. The criminals started exploiting jobless people in difficult life circumstances, whom they recruited in Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk Regions, in 2018. According to the police, two suspects have been apprehended – a man and a woman who were recruiting victims and supervising their work. Suspects face from 5 to 12 years in jail for human trafficking.

“The Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine as the National Counter-Trafficking Coordinator is working to provide the victims with official status, assess their needs and provide them with psychosocial, medical and financial assistance in partnership with the civil society and international organizations,” said Serhii Nizhynskyi, Deputy Minister of Social Policy of Ukraine.

This week IOM provided food, hygiene items and clothing to the 22 people among the case victims – those who were recruited in Dnipropetrovsk Region and returned to their homeland with help of the government authorities.

“Forced labour has been the prevailing human trafficking trend in Ukraine, with over 90 per cent of the victims assisted by IOM over the recent years suffering from this type of exploitation,” underlined Anh Nguyen, Acting Chief of Mission at IOM Ukraine.

From January to June 2019, the IOM Mission in Ukraine identified and assisted 600 victims of trafficking. Almost 70 per cent of them were men. The total number of trafficking survivors assisted by IOM since the start of its reintegration activities in Ukraine 19 years ago is close to 16,000. IOM has been also supporting the Ukrainian State and non-governmental organizations in building their capacity to raise the public awareness, assist the victims and prosecute the criminals.

“The Government and civil society of Ukraine have made a number of steps towards the establishment of a viable national counter-trafficking response. At the same time, with Ukrainians being susceptible to unofficial employment and unsafe migration, and economic crisis prompting additional risks, IOM stands ready to further support the national stakeholders’ efforts to combat modern-day slavery and provide immediate assistance to the victims,” said IOM’s Nguyen.

*The name has been changed to protect privacy