IOM shares European counter-trafficking experts’ concerns about the displaced persons’ situation in Ukraine

The Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) is deeply concerned by the negative consequences of the current crisis in Ukraine for anti-trafficking activities and the growing number of internally displaced persons, including women, children and persons with disabilities, who represent a group vulnerable to human trafficking. This is stated in a recently published GRETA report.

According to the Ukrainian State Emergency Service, about 300,000 people from Eastern Ukraine and Crimea had to seek refuge in the other parts of the country. About one-third of them are minors, about 13 per cent are elderly people and persons with disabilities. IOM assists the most vulnerable displaced persons in six regions of Ukraine (Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Vinnytsia, Khmelnytskyi and Ivano-Frankivsk) through its non-governmental partners and in coordination with the UN Country Team and local authorities. As of end September, close to 2,000 displaced persons (over 80% women and children) had primarily received non-food items, as well as gap-filling psycho-social support, medicine and other forms of assistance from IOM Ukraine. This work also includes a trafficking prevention component, as the NGOs rendering aid are IOM’s long-term counter-trafficking partners.

GRETA, composed of 15 independent experts, monitors how the parties of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings implement the obligations contained in it. The legally binding Convention, adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in 2005, entered into force for Ukraine in March 2011.

In its first report on Ukraine, to which IOM has contributed, GRETA welcomes the steps taken by Ukrainian authorities to combat modern-day slavery, including the adoption of a comprehensive anti-trafficking law, a formal procedure for the identification and referral to assistance of victims of trafficking, as well as setting up specialized police units and anti-trafficking coordination structures at central and local level.

However, GRETA notes that additional measures should be taken to raise public awareness about human trafficking and address its root causes. The report also draws attention to the need to address emerging trends, such as the increase in trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation, internal trafficking and trafficking of foreign nationals to Ukraine.  In addition to its concerns about the situation of displaced person, GRETA notes that the difficult economic situation in the country and the scarcity of job opportunities increase the vulnerability of the rural population to trafficking.

Since the year 2000, the IOM Mission in Ukraine has identified and assisted 10,500 victims of trafficking. In January-June 2014, IOM Ukraine assisted 425 victims of trafficking who suffered from forced labour and sexual exploitation in nine different countries, including Ukraine. The Russian Federation remained the top destination country for trafficking from Ukraine, with 84 per cent of victims referred to IOM Ukraine in 2014 returning from this country. The EU is the second largest destination, with 13 per cent of victims returning from its member countries (Poland, Germany and the Slovak Republic in 2014). The vast majority of the victims identified in the first half of 2014 suffered from forced labour (88.5 per cent), a stable trend over the past three years. The prevalence of men among the identified victims (56 per cent in 2014) has also held steady.