Mar 12, 2022 - World

Fears mount over human trafficking of Ukrainian refugees

Refugees from Ukraine wait at the border crossing in Palanca.

Refugees from Ukraine wait at the Palanca border crossing in Moldova. Photo: Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

Concerns are mounting over how to protect the millions of women and children fleeing Ukraine from being targeted by human traffickers, AP reports.

Driving the news: "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," said Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams, the UNHCR’s head of global communications, per AP.

The big picture: More than 2.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its unprovoked invasion in what is being called the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

  • "Obviously all the refugees are women and children," Ghedini-Williams said.

What they're saying: "When you’ve suddenly got a huge cohort of really vulnerable people who need money and assistance immediately, it’s sort of a breeding ground for exploitative situations and sexual exploitation," Tamara Barnett, director of operations at the Human Trafficking Foundation, told AP.

  • "When I saw all these volunteers offering their houses … that flagged a worry in my head."

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