refugee women and children threatened by human trafficking networks

“For the first time, the Temporary Protection Directive has been activated by the Member States to ensure the movements of Ukrainian refugees as well as their reception …

“For the first time, the Temporary Protection Directive has been activated by the Member States to ensure the movement of Ukrainian refugees, as well as their reception and support within a legal framework,” explains Parvine Ghadami, Head of the Council Unit. Europe on the fight against human trafficking. However, the massive influx of refugees does not facilitate their care. “Despite all their goodwill, the states and associations have been overwhelmed and do not necessarily have the necessary capacity. But the concern is this: If people are not received with dignity, with an offer of housing or work, they are more exposed to risks. »

Hundreds of agents from Frontex, the European Border Agency, have therefore been mobilized in Ukraine’s neighboring countries facing the influx of refugees: in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova, where Europol, the European Crime Prevention Agency, is also setting up vigilance and investigative missions.

Warnings were issued very early. Existing mafia networks were quick to exploit the confusion at the borders to expand their activities: economic exploitation, sexual exploitation, forced adoption of children. The Council of Europe calls for the disappearance of underage young women taken to Southern Europe by pimps …

“Even in normal times, the possibilities for detection are limited. In times of crisis, a large part of the iceberg remains invisible,” admits Parvine Ghadami, despite the deployed European reinforcements.

“Quiet shopping”

On the refugee route, ‘Good Samaritans’ offer their ‘services’. Facts about isolated persons, with confiscation of papers and financial exploitation. But it is generally very organized, ”explains Parvine Ghadami. “Refugees will be forced to work in sectors where language will not be a barrier. The Council of Europe’s guide therefore recommends great vigilance in agriculture, hotels, restaurants and cleaning. The new economy for delivery services, which has exploded with Covid, also provides fertile ground for the exploitation of refugees through ghost kitchens or subleased delivery accounts.

“Overall, the yields are very calm to trade,” notes Olivier Peyroux, a sociologist and expert at several UN agencies. “You can even see a kind of tolerance in certain sectors where there is a shortage of labor. Children, especially those exposed to forced adoptions, are not immune to this economic exploitation. “Already after the war in 2014, many found themselves working in agriculture or in the mines. And teenagers had been recruited by armed militias in the Donbass (“autonomous” region of eastern Ukraine). »

As for sexual exploitation, “it really is nothing new,” says the sociologist. She addresses young Ukrainian women from the early 1990s and the war in the former Yugoslavia: “Networks that are now very powerful have been deployed in Europe, the Middle East and the United States. Germany is a black spot to see, especially because of its legal brothels and its 400,000 sex workers. “

Risks also in France

The threat of exploitation also exists in France. “About 30,000 Ukrainian refugees have been welcomed in France thanks to citizen accommodation, but in emergencies, the prefectures that centralized these offers required no guarantee or criminal record. The harsher the situation, the greater the risk,” said Olivier Peyroux, co-founder. of the Trajectoires, an association that specializes in taking into account the migrant population. “The reception of Ukrainian refugees deserves a real observatory of their situations as well as more lasting solutions.”

In France, the authorities caught sight of the existence of human trafficking in the late 2000s. It was also at this time that the collective “against human trafficking” was born, coordinated by Secours Catholique, which brings together about twenty associations. “Every single one had worked for a long time with minors forced to beg, victims of domestic slavery or sex workers, with the collective we have a more global approach,” explains Geneviève Colas, its coordinator.

Registration and reporting

According to the Council of Europe guidelines, the registration of refugees is, according to her, the first solution to limit the dangers. “Registration must be more systematic at stations or airports. If we do not do this from the beginning, they will end up in nature, 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, it’s a real question … “

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