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Ukrainian children are mysteriously disappearing when they reach the border of their war-torn nation and there have been reports of human traffickers kidnapping them amid the chaos as desperate parents send them alone into neighboring countries, according to aid groups.
With no one to meet the children as they cross the border, many of them are at severe risk of being taken by smugglers, according to a report by The Guardian.
Charities and aid groups that are working in neighboring countries welcoming refugees said they had seen cases of trafficking, missing children, extortion, and exploitation as more than 2.5 million people crossed the border to escape the escalating violence as the war with Russia expands.
“This is obviously extremely distressing for a child and can lead to them wandering around the station alone, disoriented and in the worst-case scenario, disappearing altogether. This, unfortunately, is not a hypothetical case – it has happened already,” claimed Karolina Wierzbińska, who is a coordinator from Homo Faber, a human rights organization that is based in Lublin, Poland. “We are also already getting reports of cases of human trafficking.”
There are groups working across the borders to raise awareness about the dangers of human trafficking at the borders and to inform people crossing, such as Polish organisation Homo Faber, their leaflet in Ukrainian below, it’s important this reaches as many people as possible. pic.twitter.com/LJLA6yZrJq
— Katy Fallon (@katymfallon) March 12, 2022
Vital reporting, thanks Katy.
We have practical guidance available here (and being translated and distributed as widely as possible) on steps to take if local authorities, volunteers or groups identify potentially vulnerable children https://t.co/qCNAzs5ebT
— Joe English (@JoeEEnglish) March 12, 2022
Women are at risk as well. Groups are warning them about so-called volunteers holding cardboard signs at train stations at border crossings, offering to drive them across Europe. Chances are very good they will never get there and will just vanish, subjected to an unspeakable fate.
“I would guess that 90 percent of those men were well-meaning people offering genuine help. Nevertheless, the situation itself was extremely chaotic, potentially frightening for anyone, let alone a person already in distress. We cannot rule out that a fraction of the people in the crowd were simply criminals, waiting to take advantage of vulnerable women,” Wierzbińska said.
“We are also already getting reports of cases of human trafficking and women being offered work in Poland only to find the workplace is illegitimate, the employer is mistreating them, refusing to pay their salary on time. There are cases of extortion of personal documents or money,” she said according to WION.
I had feared this.
— Krysti Brice (@KrystiBrice) March 12, 2022
“We feel strongly that information should reach women before they cross into Poland,” Wierzbińska asserted. “These are people dealing with serious trauma. The amount of conflicting information, decisions to be made – the sheer volume of stimuli can lead to a cognitive overload. The sooner they are made aware of the situation awaiting them in Poland, the more time they have to process it.”
Monika Molnárová, who is from Caritas Slovakia’s stop human trafficking team, claimed that Slovakia’s national unit for combatting human trafficking was working at the border and had intervened to protect women and children in suspected cases.
“The risk of trafficking is considerable, as the refugees, exhausted and deprived of any basic comfort, are, with every new day on the road, more and more vulnerable. We believe traffickers and recruiters are most probably targeting both women traveling alone and women traveling with children,” she contended.
Crying and alone, this Ukrainian refugee child crossed the Polish border, fleeing the bloody conflict in his country.
No matter their nationality, age or religion, children should not experience this agony.
— I'm Human (@Human1tyF1rst) March 11, 2022
At a temporary camp run by Slovakian authorities for refugees, camp manager Sergej Savin stated that they did not allow the transportation of refugees from the site. He reported that there had been people who had turned up offering rides.
“In some cases, it was not good. For example, there was a man, he wanted only one woman and four children. I told him to go. We cannot do this like that,” he commented.
On Tuesday, the Polish government introduced amendments to a newly passed bill, outlining the country’s response to the refugee crisis according to the Polish Press Agency. It raises 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. Many assert that sentence is not nearly harsh enough.
Poland’s deputy interior minister, Maciej Wąsik, stated, “We want to send a clear message to the criminals who are trying to exploit the tragedies of the refugees.”
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