“For the first time the directive on temporary protection has been activated by member states in order to secure the movement of Ukrainian refugees, as well as their reception…
“For the first time, the directive on temporary protection has been activated by member states in order to secure the movement of Ukrainian refugees, as well as their reception and support within a legal framework,” explains Parvine Ghadami, head of the Council Unit. of Europe on the fight against trafficking in human beings. However, the massive influx of refugees does not facilitate their care. “Despite all their good will, the states and associations have been overwhelmed, and do not necessarily have the necessary capacities. But the concern is this: if people are not welcomed with dignity, with an offer of housing or work, they find themselves more exposed to risks. »
Several hundred agents from Frontex, the European Borders Agency, have therefore been mobilized in the neighboring countries of Ukraine faced with the flow of refugees: in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova where Europol, the he european agency for the fight against crime also sets up vigilance and investigation missions.
Alerts were issued very early. Already existing mafia networks were quick to take advantage of the confusion at the borders to extend their activities: economic exploitation, sexual exploitation, forced adoption of children. The Council of Europe evokes the disappearance of minors, young women taken to southern Europe by pimps…
“Already in normal times, detection capabilities are limited. In times of crisis, a whole part of the iceberg remains invisible,” admits Parvine Ghadami, however, despite the European reinforcements deployed.
“Quiet to act”
“On the refugee route, ‘good Samaritans’ offer their ‘services’. Facts of isolated individuals, with confiscation of papers and economic exploitation. But it’s generally very organised,” explains Parvine Ghadami. “Refugees will be forced to work in sectors where language will not be a barrier. The Council of Europe guidance note therefore recommends strong vigilance in agriculture, hotels, restaurants and cleaning. The new economy of delivery services, which has exploded with Covid, also provides fertile ground for the exploitation of refugees through shadow kitchens or sublet delivery accounts.
“Overall, the exploiters are very calm to act” observes Olivier Peyroux, sociologist, expert with several United Nations agencies. “We can even see a form of tolerance in certain sectors where there is a labor shortage. Children, especially exposed to forced adoptions, are not immune to this economic exploitation. “Already after the 2014 war, many found themselves working in agriculture, or in the mines. And teenagers had been recruited by armed militias in the Donbass (“autonomist” region of eastern Ukraine). »
As for sexual exploitation, “it’s really nothing new,” says the sociologist. She targets young Ukrainian women from the beginning of the 1990s and the war in the former Yugoslavia: “networks, now very powerful, have been deployed in Europe, the Middle East and the United States. Germany is a black spot to watch especially because of its legal brothels and its 400,000 sex workers. »
Risks in France too
The threat of exploitation also exists in France. “About 30,000 Ukrainian refugees have been welcomed in France thanks to citizen accommodation, but, in the emergency, no guarantee, nor any criminal record, were required by the prefectures which centralized these offers. The harder the situation, the greater the risks,” assures Olivier Peyroux, also co-founder of Trajectoires, an association specializing in taking migrant populations into account. “The reception of Ukrainian refugees deserves a real observatory of their situations, as well as more lasting solutions. »
In France, the authorities opened their eyes to the existence of human trafficking at the end of the 2000s. It was also at this time that the collective “against human trafficking” was born, coordinated by Secours Catholique, which brings together some twenty associations. “Each one had been working for a long time with minors forced to beg, victims of domestic slavery or sex workers, with the collective we have a more global approach” explains Geneviève Colas, its coordinator.
Registration and reporting
Like the guidelines of the Council of Europe, according to her, the registration of refugees is the first solution to limit the dangers. “Registration must be more systematic at stations or airports. If we don’t do this from the start, they end up in the wild, at the mercy of the networks. Of the 60,000 Ukrainians who arrived in France, only 70 minors were registered. And when we know that minors constitute more than half of the refugees, it is a real question…”
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