We are horrified and sickened by the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine. There are no words, only a deep sadness and longing to do anything to help those affected.
One of the locations that women and children, and the elderly, who have been displaced by the war are heading is Romania. We have grave concerns about the risk of traffickers preying on these vulnerable people crossing the border – our team is doing what we can to help.
What is happening?
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens are being displaced and over a million have already fled the country. In Romania, 50% of those coming over the border are thought to be unaccompanied children. Historically, refugee children would need to be accompanied by an adult, but for over 14-year-olds entering Romania, they are being treated as adults and being allowed to enter the country.
Through our own work, we have supported modern slavery victims from Ukraine on several occasions and the country is a known human trafficking route into the UK. Unfortunately, we also know that traffickers prey on the most vulnerable, and war makes people – especially refugees – all the more vulnerable. This war is the perfect storm for human trafficking to thrive.
To make matters worse
Traffickers are taking advantage of the crisis. There are already anecdotal reports among NGOs that Ukrainian women and children are being targeted by traffickers. For example, there are reports of men offering jobs and lifts to vulnerable people. Whilst we cannot verify those reports, they would be within the modus operandi of those responsible for modern slavery and human trafficking.
What are we doing?
Last year Justice and Care Romania co-founded the Protect Platform (a national task force of 20 NGOs) used to help ensure safe migration. We are now using the platform to protect the most vulnerable to trafficking.
Through targeted advertising to those at key entry points along the Ukraine/Romanian border – with an expected reach of some 250,000 people, we are using text and social media to direct these people to the Protect Platform.
This will enable those vulnerable to trafficking to access resources and information on how to stay safe. Our messaging is supporting Ukrainians entering Romania as well as Romanian citizens who are or would like to offer support.
What else can you do?
Many of us will be experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety, anger and fear as the situation in Ukraine has sent shockwaves around the world. Global Citizen has put together some ideas for ways you can help Ukraine.