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Human trafficking – a problem that is still relevant today

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Life of Olga was extremely difficult. She had to live in one room with her ex-husband, an alcoholic. Often she had to suffer from his violence. Therefore, the proposal of her friend to go for a work to Russia seemed very appropriate. For Olga it was chance to earn money and finally start new live separately from her husband. She left her son to her mother and decided to go. Her friend told her that her duties include caring for three children in a wealthy family. 1000$ salary was promised. Since employers needed one more assistant, Olga went with her friend.

Women came to Moscow in February, but the reality was not as cloudless as it was promised. They were brought to a mansion in the suburbs, their passports were taken from them and then they were accused of stealing valuables. The owner of the house forced them to work for free – to work off the debt for stolen property. Women refused; as a result, they were badly beaten and closed for two days in a cellar. They were scared that if they do not agree to these conditions, they will have to work in a nightclub. Olga and her friend worked 18 hours a day, but had no opportunities to escape. In fact, they were slaves in a posh mansion. Next, there was almost a detective story – women managed to pass a note to Ukrainian man, who also worked in the house. Then he helped them to make the tunnel and finally they escaped to Moscow. After that, women had to work another 2 weeks as dishwashers in the cafe at the railway station in order to earn money for a ticket to Odessa.

The story seems to be taken from the 19th century at least, or from some adventure movie, but unfortunately it comes from nowadays reality. Assistants of the project “Support of consulting centers for victims of human trafficking” which Caritas Ukraine is implementing in five regions of Ukraine are faced with such true stories regularly. The task of the projects is to provide multifaceted assistance, especially psychological, to human trafficking victims, and facilitate their reintegration into society. Besides, important objective of the project is to identify people in need, while not every victim is ready to go for help. The task of the project is to do everything possible to minimize the negative impact of human trafficking and, in cooperation with other specialized government agencies, to identify its tendencies and inform the public about the threats that are often hidden behind promising job offers.

Within the project, preventive activities are carried out among potential migrants who can be trafficked in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk regions, particularly among vulnerable groups of society such as internally displaced persons, youth, children, families in difficult situations, the poor and others. As a result, 68 human trafficking victims and 18 potential victims were identified. The first 9 months of the project showed interesting and very important trends for studying this phenomenon in Ukraine. As it turned out it is very multifaceted.

Most of identified victims (75%) suffer from labor exploitation, 10% were involved in an armed conflict (to build fortifications, bunkers, collect ammunition). Besides, there are cases of organ harvesting, selling babies and involvement in criminal activities. Among the victims are IDPs (26%), young women, including a citizen of Congo, people from large families, disabled persons, homeless and seniors. The youngest victim is 6 months old, while the oldest – 64 years old. 7 persons have already received the official status of human trafficking victim. They are formalizing the state aid. 4 persons are recognized as victims in criminal proceedings. Most cases of human trafficking occurred in Russia (35%), while 32% – directly in Ukraine.

Each of the victims who addressed the counseling centers received diversified support. Assistance is made due to an individual plan of reintegration. The implementation of the plan involved social workers, psychologists and invited professionals (therapists, lawyers, doctors, etc.). Each victim was supported in the acquisition of the most essential things: food, hygiene and cleaning products, household items, wood for heating home, medicines. Besides, the project financially supports the payment of medical services, legal support and so on. Through the integrated approach the state of the victims is evidently improved. Meanwhile, they had to endure a lot. Employees of centers collect their stories for being a reminder for those who are in search of a better life in crisis and often trust dubious proposals of dishonest people.

One of these stories is the story of Ivanna. Girl from a large family always helped her disabled mother and grandmother to look after younger brothers and sisters. Suddenly, she became very ill. The family spent all their savings for her treatment. They even had to take a loan from a bank and borrow money from their relatives and neighbors. Instead of rehabilitation after serious illness, the girl had to go on temporary jobs to earn at least some money, but because of bad health she could not operate at full power. Lack of money, growing debts caused great frustration of Ivanna. Thus, when she found online advertisement about the opportunity to sell kidney, she decided to take this desperate step and volunteered to sell her kidney. A man called to Ivanna. He asked her about her family, financial status, friends, and environment and then offered her to come to Moscow, promising to pay for the fare. Mediators met Ivanna in Sumy. From there, they went on a private car to Moscow, where they planned to meet with the recipient. When they arrived to the hotel, there were police officers waiting for them. They detained mediators, and Ivanna was sent to the Center for Adaptation “Warm Home”. Experts of IOM Russia bought her tickets to Ukraine. She returned home with deep psychological trauma. She was very depressed and only care of professionals from counseling center helped her to cope with the problem.

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