After more than three weeks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, over 3 million people have been forced to flee the country, and concerns are being raised about people preying on refugees.
Most of those refugees are women and children who are exposed “to heightened risks of violence, exploitation, and abuse”, said Eleanor Monbiot OBE, regional leader for Middle East and Eastern Europe of the Christian organization World Vision.
According to UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, “for predators and human traffickers, war is not a tragedy. It is an opportunity. And women and children are the targets. They need safety and support every step of the way”.
Lauren Agnew, Human Trafficking Policy Officer for Christian charity CARE, agrees that “these gangs prey on the precariousness of refugees and the war is a business opportunity for them to make a profit and get people into Europe”.
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“As time goes on, we will see a spike in numbers caused by refugees being exploited by traffickers, involved in criminal gangs or forced labour and domestic slavery”, warns Agnew.
Recommendations against trafficker tactics
The European Freedom Network (EFN), a Christian community that fights human trafficking and commercial exploitation in Europe, has published some practical recommendations, to warn refugees crossing the borders of trafficker tactics.
“We want you to know that not everyone you may encounter is honest. Human trafficking hides behind a friendly face and makes false promises to people in vulnerable situations and circumstances”, stresses EFN in its website.
These are the practical tips they recommend to refugees to stay safe:
- Protect your identification and don’t relinquish or give your documents to anyone, even for safekeeping.
- Don’t give your personal phone to anyone.
- Wherever you are, register with the local authority or local organization databases. When travelling with someone you don’t know, take a photo of the person and the vehicle and send it to someone you trust.
- If you choose to stay somewhere other than the accommodation provided for you by NGOs, churches or associations, make certain you notify the local authorities and advise them as to where you will be staying.
- In case of an emergency, suspicious person or concern, immediately notify the nearest police station or local authorities.
They have published it in Ukrainian, Hungarian, Polish, Russian and Slovak.
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In addition to these recommendations, the EFN explains with information for specific countries, where refugees should register, and helps churches that are working at the borders or transporting and accommodating refugees, to ensure they are cared for and protected from human traffickers.
Header photo shows Ukrainian refugees arriving in Przemyśl, Poland. / Photo: Mirek Pruchnicki, Filckr, CC BY 2.0.
This story originally appeared at Evangelical Focus and is republished here with permission.