War zones and refugee exodus are fertile grounds for human trafficking
It is no surprise that a United Nations spokesperson announced that Ukrainian women and children are potential risks for human trafficking. A Shared Global Shame knows no boundaries.
“Obviously all the refugees are women and children,” United Nations Refugee Agency head of Global Communications Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams said, according to the AP. “You have to worry about any potential risks for trafficking, but also exploitation, and sexual exploitation and abuse. These are the kinds of situations that people like traffickers … look to take advantage of.”
For decades, it has been known that trafficking occurs in war zones and refugee situations because people are desperate, marginalized, and traumatized.
In recent decades, trafficking was rampant during Gulf One, the Balkan Crises, in the Sudan, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq War, Arab Spring, and across Arabian peninsula, MENA and into Europe. There are over 82 million refugees globally.
Now, we have the largest number of refugees expanding across Europe since World War II, and human trafficking cases are surfacing.
Millions are fleeing Ukraine crossing adjacent border 24/7.
Mothers and children are fleeing in droves leaving their husbands and older sons of fighting age behind to fight the Russian forces while they flee to Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, Moldova, Romania, and other European countries.
Some Ukrainian families are sending their unaccompanied minor children to the border, and finding that even if American relatives arrive in Europe to help these unaccompanied minors, they are not allowed to bring them to the United States.
That is an insane U.S. policy that puts minors at risk. It flies in the face of the open southern borders in the United States.
One family from Los Angeles flew to Poland to retrieve their young relatives and were told by the U.S. Embassy in Poland that they could not help them.
Men are reaching out over the internet offering shelter to only women and children raising red flags to law enforcement officials.
They are even showing up at the border holding signs for shelter.
One man has been accused of raping a young woman. She will not be the last. That is the reality of war.
Over 20 years ago, this journalist criss-crossed western and Eastern Europe and the Balkans for my first investigation on human trafficking. This arena is bone-evil.
And, as predicable as this is, the future will be bleak for many of these refugees.
Some of the current organizations involved to help these refugees have their own history of corruption, bad actors, unconscious management, and in some cases, complicit by acts of omission and commission.
Where there are marginalized masses in desperate situations, such as in a war zone or a refugee exodus, bad actors will show up and prey upon the most vulnerable.
It is incumbent for all of NATO and non-NATO countries to be aware that if they do not have anti-human trafficking policies in place to address this mass exodus from Ukraine, further misery will ensue.
Poland has already found that it cannot handle the refugee numbers arriving on its borders.
In response to this grave situation, the Polish government introduced amendments to a new bill, Polish Press Agency reported.
The amendment raised the minimum sentence for human trafficking from three to 10 years, and the maximum prison sentence for sex trafficking of children from 10 to 25 years.
“We want to send a clear message to the criminals who are trying to exploit the tragedies of the refugees,” said Poland’s Deputy Interior Minister, Maciej Wąsik.
UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, said that while the Polish government’s decision to open the border so completely to Ukrainian refugees was to be applauded, “it does present challenges” in terms of child protection.
Because of the “sheer scale” of this refugee situation, it is “incredibly difficult to identify children who are unaccompanied and separated,” said Joe English, UNICEF’s Spokesperson.
Hence, UNICEF is now establishing a system of ‘blue dot’ safe spaces for children in seven countries receiving refugees.
But, will it be enough and will traumatized children, desperate mothers, and unaccompanied minors fall prey to those who are well-experienced to take advantage of them during this mass exodus?
Every world leader who sits on the bench and does not see this crippling protracted disaster, and does not bring this utter madness to a screeching halt and implement a secure model to protect these families, joins the ranks of A Shared Global Shame.
Putin ignited this current crises, but he is not alone. This situation with Putin in Ukraine has been in play since 2014, and bubbling well before that. The Minsk Agreement was signed in 2015.
It is incumbent upon every world leader to get off the bench.
This is beyond Ukraine. This is about families and the soul of humanity.
This is a stain upon the self-serving interests of corrupt world leaders and their governments pointing fingers on all sides all the while commodifying citizens.
There is no war that does not involve a boatload of money to be paid at the expense of ordinary citizens whose lives are turned upside down and forever destroyed with tragic losses.
Christine Dolan is CDM.Press’ Chief Investigative Correspondent. She has investigated all faces of human trafficking in 140 countries for 22 years.