IOM Marks 20 Years of Counter-Trafficking in Ukraine

12 October 2018

Human trafficking is an acute challenge for Ukraine, with over 1,200 victims identified and assisted last year alone by IOM. The UN Migration Agency has been assisting trafficking victims in the country for 20 years, and 15,000 have received medical, psychosocial and legal assistance, vocational training and equipment to help them start enterprises.

The programme is the biggest of its kind in Europe, and to mark 20 years of helping vulnerable migrants and trafficking victims, IOM gathered national and local state officials, civil society partners and international practitioners for a conference in the capital Kyiv this week. The event was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP).

“Human trafficking continues to be an issue that plagues our times,” said Anh Nguyen, Head of Migrant Protection and Assistance Division at IOM Headquarters in Geneva. “The work of IOM staff in the field and strong partnerships with governments and local NGOs are crucial for preventing trafficking, prosecuting criminals and protecting victims.”

Of the thousands of survivors assisted by the UN Migration Agency in Ukraine, the youngest was only three years old, and the oldest was 83. About 60 per cent of victims identified by IOM Ukraine over the last three years are men. People from Ukraine have been trafficked to over 50 countries.

In addition to victim reintegration, IOM has been supporting the development of national counter-trafficking legislation and the establishment of the state-led National Referral Mechanism for victims of trafficking. Over 7,000 state and civil society practitioners dealing with trafficking survivors received comprehensive training from IOM. The UN Migration Agency also runs a toll-free National Counter-Trafficking and Migrant Advice Hotline which assists up to 20,000 people annually.

“Today we celebrate the 20 years of dedicated work of the IOM staff and NGO partners, generous support of the donor community, strong commitment of the Government of Ukraine. But these have also been years of unbelievable resilience and courage of the victims of trafficking – women, men and children, who managed to rebuild their lives after the extremely traumatizing experiences they went through,” said IOM’s Ukraine Mission Chief, Dr Thomas Lothar Weiss.

Andrii* is one of the victims supported by IOM Ukraine. When he was five years old, his grandmother took him from his mother and transported him abroad, where for four years he was forced to beg and to steal from stores. Andrii’s grandmother was arrested, and the boy was reunited with his mother and sister. Andrii and his mother received medical and psychological assistance in the IOM Medical Rehabilitation Centre.

The boy had not attended school at all, so he was enrolled in the first grade. IOM helped him with school supplies, clothing, and footwear, and his family now lives in a house provided by their village council. As the conditions there are basic, IOM gave them furniture, a refrigerator, washing machine, and winter fuel.

Andrii is a happier boy now: “I have a pet dog and two puppies. I go to school where I now have friends. My favourite subjects are maths, physical education and crafts. Also, I help my mother take care of our cattle.”

*Name has been changed to protect privacy