Refugee women and children threatened by human trafficking networks

For the first time the Directive on Temporary Protection has been activated by Member States in order to secure the movement of Ukrainian refugees, as well as their reception and …

“For the first time, the Temporary Protection Directive has been activated by member states in order to secure the movement of Ukrainian refugees, as well as their reception and support in a legal framework,” explains Parvin Gadami, Head of the Council’s Unit. Europe on combating human trafficking. However, the massive influx of refugees does not facilitate their care. “Despite all their good intentions, states and associations are overwhelmed, and do not necessarily have the necessary capabilities. But the concern is this: if people are not welcomed with dignity, with housing or work offered, they find themselves more vulnerable.”

So several hundred clients of the European border agency Frontex were mobilized in countries neighboring Ukraine in the face of the influx of refugees: in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova where Europol, the European crime prevention agency, was created. vigilance and investigation missions.

The warnings were issued too soon. And the already existing mafia networks were quick to take advantage of the confusion at the borders to expand their activities: economic exploitation, sexual exploitation, forced adoption of children. The Council of Europe summons the disappearance of young girls who were taken by pimps to southern Europe…

“Already in normal times, detection capabilities are limited. In times of crisis, a whole part of the iceberg remains invisible”, admits Parvin Ghadmi, despite the deployment of European reinforcements.

“Calm to work”

“On the refugee path, the ‘good Samaritans’ provide their ‘services.’ The chronicle of isolated individuals with confiscation of papers and economic exploitation. But in general it is very organized,” explains Parvin Ghadmi. “Refugees will be forced to work in sectors where language will not be a barrier. The Council of Europe guidance note therefore recommends extreme vigilance in agriculture, hotels, restaurants and cleaning. The new economy of delivery services, which has exploded with Covid, is also providing fertile ground for the exploitation of refugees through shadow kitchens or Subcontracting accounts.

“In general, exploiters are very quiet in their behaviour,” notes Olivier Perroux, a sociologist and expert with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. You can even see a form of tolerance in certain sectors where there is a shortage of labour. Children, especially those who are subjected to forced adoption, in Russia in particular, are not immune to this economic exploitation. After the 2014 war, many found themselves working in agriculture or in the mines. Teenagers were recruited by armed militias in Donbass (“autonomous” region in eastern Ukraine). »

As for sexual exploitation, the sociologist says, “it’s really nothing new.” She has been targeting young Ukrainian women since the early 1990s and the war in the former Yugoslavia: “Networks, now very powerful, are spread between Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the United States. Germany is a black spot to watch especially because of its legal brothels and 400,000 sex workers.” »

Dangers in France too

The threat of exploitation also exists in France. Some 30,000 Ukrainian refugees were welcomed into France thanks to the citizens’ housing, but in the event of an emergency, the provinces focused on these shows did not ask for any guarantees or any criminal record. Olivier Perroux, who is also a co-founder of Trajectoires, an association that specializes in taking immigrant populations into account, stresses the more difficult the situation, the higher the stakes. The reception of Ukrainian refugees deserves real monitoring of their situation, as well as more permanent solutions. »

In France, the authorities opened their eyes to the existence of human trafficking at the end of the 2000s. It was also at this time that the group “Against Human Trafficking” was born, coordinated by the Secours Catholique, which includes about twenty associations. “Everyone has worked for a long time with minors forced to beg, victims of domestic slavery or sex workers, with the group we have a more global approach,” explains Genevieve Colas, coordinator of the organization.

Registration and reporting

Similar to the Council of Europe directives, she says, refugee registration is the first solution to reduce risks. Check-in should be more regular at stations or airports. If we don’t do this from the start, they will end up in the wild, at the mercy of the networks. Of the 60,000 Ukrainians who arrived in France, only 70 minors were registered. And when we know that minors make up more than half of the refugees, that’s a real question…”

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