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How not to become a victim of human trafficking during the war against Ukraine

Saturday, 17 December 2022, 12:00

There are dates in history that mark our collective memory. February 24, 2022 will undoubtedly be one of them. Russia’s invasion has thrown international affairs into turmoil and led to the largest displacement of people since the Second World War.

Eight million Ukrainians – mostly women and children – have been forced to leave their homes and families and travel a perilous path in the hope of finding safety across the border. Tragic events can bring out the best in us and for the most part, European communities have united to respond promptly to this massive call for help and safety. 

However, women and children fleeing the war are still extremely vulnerable and face the increased risks of trafficking for labour, sexual and other forms of exploitation.  For instance, OSCE and ‘Thomson Reuters’ analysis showed that, since late February, online searches for explicit content and sexual services from Ukrainians surged dramatically across multiple countries and multiple languages.


For example, global searches for "Ukrainian porn", "Ukrainian refugee porn" and "Ukrainian escort" increased by 200-600%. As the war drags on, this fast-raising "demand" serves as a strong economic incentive for traffickers to recruit and exploit Ukrainians women and girls at scale. The OSCE has documented numerous suspicious recruitment ads, looking for "girls" "without experience" who only need to be "friendly" and ready to work "in the best clubs" in Europe. Some ads left the door open for underage applicants. Meanwhile, advertisements of Ukrainians on some sexual service websites have increased ten-fold. Traffickers will seize every opportunity to turn vulnerability into profit. 

To respond to these risks, the OSCE partnered with Thomson Reuters to launch the "Be Safe" online awareness raising campaign to provide displaced Ukrainians with key safety information to spot warning signs of traffickers and get assistance when they need it.

"Be Safe" helps people spot traffickers’ devious tactics – like unsolicited or risky offers of money, food, transportation, and employment from anyone not working in an official capacity, or offers that are "too good to be true" like high salaries for unskilled work. The campaign also provides a list of vetted helplines to contact in case of suspicious circumstances or a trafficking situation. 

Getting this tool into the hands of those who need it is critical. As the First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska said sharing information about the campaign on her Telegram channel: "Be vigilant and share the campaign with your loved ones who had to go abroad".    

With uncertain times ahead, the "Be Safe" website and safety advice can help keep Ukrainians safe from looming risks of exploitation. Use and share it widely so that each and every Ukrainian is safe from human trafficking. 

Disclaimer: Articles reflect their author’s point of view and do not claim to be objective or to explore every aspect of the issues they discuss. The Ukrainska Pravda editorial board does not bear any responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided, or its interpretation, and acts solely as a publisher. The point of view of the Ukrainska Pravda editorial board may not coincide with the point of view of the article’s author.

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