July 30 is the World Day against Trafficking. It would seem that this issue should have lost its urgency in the civilized and informational XXI century, but it still remains a serious problem with more and more Ukrainians becoming victims of human trafficking. According to the data of the International Organization for Migration, more than 160,000 Ukrainians have been affected by the modern slavery over last 25 years, although the official statistics of the Ministry of Social Policy states that only 274 persons have been identified as victims of human trafficking for last five years. Officials are still shutting their eyes to the problem, and potential victims are falling into traps because of the lack of awareness.
Combatting human trafficking was always one of the main directions of Caritas Ukraine activities. The network of Consulting Centers for prevention and reintegration of the victims operated from 2004 to 2014, comprehensive assistance was provided to over 1000 persons. In 2016, project “Support of consulting centers for victims of human trafficking” was launched. It is being implemented in five regions of Ukraine – Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk with the financial support from Caritas France and Spain. The main objective of the project is facilitation of social and professional integration of human trafficking victims and prevention of human trafficking by providing consulting services to potential victims, especially to migrant workers, children and risk groups.
Project employees realize that is not enough to just help victims, it is important to provide maximum information to the population about risks of alluring well-paid job offers, which promise legal employment irrespective of person’s experience and skills. That is why an information component aimed at improving awareness of local population about risky situations which must avoided in order not to fall a victim to human trafficking is an important part of project activities. It is vital to make people aware how to travel safely around the world and get the employment without risks of their freedom, safety and health.
Natalia Holynska, Project Coordinator, admits, “Events of past years have negatively influenced Ukrainian population, particularly vulnerable social groups. These processes led to a rapid growth of internal and external migration. A number of human trafficking cases is still growing. In a situation of war and crisis in Ukraine, a lot of men, women and children suffer from its different forms, such as labor and sexual exploitation, forced begging, involvement of children in an armed conflict, forced early marriages, organ trade, sale of children and other forms of inhumane behavior abroad and inside the country. Lack of information and imperfection of the state social protection system in Ukraine are leading to an increase of a number of victims who need urgent assistance”.
For the first year of project activities, 96 victims were identified and provided assistance. The data on them demolish the widely-spread belief that only women, being sold into sex slavery, are subjected to human trafficking. 60% of those who received Caritas help are men. New realities have shaped a new risk group of internally displaced persons and persons from the conflict zone, constituting 26% of consulting centers clients. The current situation in Ukraine brings new risk zones. “The latest wake-up call is involvement of our men into military conflict in the east. Caritas obtains information about two citizens of the Precarpathia who were tricked into labor slavery in Russia and later forced to participate in the military activities in eastern Ukraine. The men went through hell, but managed to return home and asked for our assistance“, Director of CF “Caritas Ivano-Frankivsk UGCC”, Volodomyr Chorniy tells. 47% of people affected by human trafficking are young people. 12 persons obtained the official status of a victim; several persons are waiting for this decision.
The project staff keeps busy and fairly considers the project objective of enhancing awareness of vulnerable groups (migrants, young people, children, IDPs, rural citizens, the unemployed and others) and specialists about modern forms of human trafficking is one of the key project constituents. Over the year, more than 100 workshops and 10 round tables were hold, in which about 18 000 persons took part. Saved fates stand behind these dry figures. This is the thing Caritas is always proud of.