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Trafficking refugees: Ukrainians run from one risky circumstance to another

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Since Russian troops invaded Ukraine, more than 4.5 million Ukrainians have escaped the violence within their country’s borders. Most of these refugees are women and children, but the journey to reach their destinations is risky, according to international officials who have issued warnings regarding human trafficking.

“For predators and human traffickers, the war in Ukraine is not a tragedy,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres tweeted. “It’s an opportunity.”

The largest portion of refugees is heading to Poland. According to the European Commission“Poland is a source, transit, and destination country” for those subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.

LONGWORTH: MORE THAN 4 MILLION UKRAINIANS HAVE ESCAPED THEIR HOMELAND.

MOST, WOMEN AND CHILDREN.

MANY, WITHOUT A PLAN.

AND, THE REALITY IS, THEY LEAVE ONE RISKY SITUATION FOR ANOTHER.

DASHA: “I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S ON PUTIN’S MIND, SO I DON’T KNOW HOW FAST IT WILL END. SO, FOR NOW, I AM JUST FINDING A SHELTER, AND THEN WE WILL SEE FROM THERE.”

LONGWORTH: WOMEN AND CHILDREN ARE PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE TO THREATS LIKE HUMAN TRAFFICKING.

TOMEK ANDRZEJEWSKI: “IF YOU’RE UKRAINIAN AND YOU’RE LIKE 19 OR 20, I CAN ONLY IMAGINE THIS IS EXTREMELY AND TERRIFYINGLY POSSIBLE THAT SOMEONE COULD JUST PICK YOU UP IN A CAR AND DRIVE WHO KNOWS WHERE.”

LONGWORTH: TOMEK ANDRZEJEWSKI TELLS ME HE SEES THE RISK THESE REFUGEES TAKE BY TRUSTING POLISH FAMILIES LIKE HIS FOR SHELTER.

UN SECRETARY GENERAL ANTONIO GUTERRES HAS CALLED FOR SAFETY MEASURES, SAYING “FOR PREDATORS AND HUMAN TRAFFICKERS, THE WAR IN UKRAINE IS NOT A TRAGEDY. IT’S AN OPPORTUNITY.”

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION–THE EU’S POLITICALLY INDEPENDENT EXECUTIVE ARM–SAYS “POLAND IS A SOURCE, TRANSIT, AND DESTINATION COUNTRY” FOR THOSE SUBJECTED TO FORCED LABOR AND SEX TRAFFICKING.

AND THE ISSUE’S GROWN AMONG UKRAINIAN MIGRANTS.

THE POLISH GOVERNMENT’S ISSUED FLYERS, WARNING REFUGEES TO TAKE PRECAUTIONS IN THEIR TRAVELS, LIKE WRITING DOWN THE LICENSE PLATES OF ANY VEHICLES THEY GET INTO AND SIMPLY LISTENING TO THEIR INTUITION

BUT, WITHOUT MUCH PRACTICAL OVERSIGHT AS THE REFUGEE CRISIS DEVELOPED, SHELTER VOLUNTEERS ARE CREATING THEIR OWN SYSTEMS TO PROTECT PEOPLE.

YAN: “WE HAVE A PROCEDURE WHERE WE GO TO THE POLICE–THERE IS POLICE OUTSIDE. WE GO TO THEM, WE TELL THEM, ‘HEY, THIS GUY WANTS TO GO WITH THAT FAMILY.’ WE HAVE A SPECIAL DOCUMENT WHERE WE GET THE INFORMATION OF THE DRIVER AND WHO HE IS TAKING. THEN, WE GO TO THE POLICE, THEY WRITE IT DOWN, PUT IT IN THE DATABASE, AND ONCE THAT PERSON ARRIVES AT THE PLACE WHERE THEY TOLD POLICE THEY GO, THEN WE CAN MAKE SURE THAT THESE PEOPLE ARE THERE.’”

LONGWORTH: HOWEVER, EUROPOL–THE EU LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY–WARNS CRIMINALS MIGHT EVEN “PRESENT THEMSELVES IN RECEPTION AND ACCOMMODATION CENTERS AS VOLUNTEERS.”

NGOS LIKE LA STRADA, IN WARSAW, CONTINUE TO PRESSURE GOVERNMENTS HOSTING REFUGEES TO BE MORE PROACTIVE IN PROTECTION. 

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Since Russian troops invaded Ukraine, more than 4.5 million Ukrainians have escaped the violence within their country’s borders. Most of these refugees are women and children, but the journey to reach their destinations is risky, according to international officials who have issued warnings regarding human trafficking.

“For predators and human traffickers, the war in Ukraine is not a tragedy,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres tweeted. “It’s an opportunity.”

The largest portion of refugees is heading to Poland. According to the European Commission“Poland is a source, transit, and destination country” for those subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.

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