Concern is growing as human traffickers have started targeting women and children fleeing Ukraine.
One man was detained in Poland on suspicion of raping a 19-year-old refugee to whom he had promised shelter after she fled Ukraine upon Russia’s invasion, according to the Associated Press. Another 16-year-old girl was approached by a man who promised her work and a room, but authorities intervened before the offer went any further, the outlet continued.
Another man was stopped by police inside of a refugee camp along the Polish border after he was heard only offering help to women and children, the AP reported. After the police questioned him, he changed his story.
Women and children at significant risk of human trafficking in Ukraine has always been an issue. It was a serious problem before the war, now it’s much worse #PresidentZelensky https://t.co/Z6GgjOKZdY
— English Rose (@RoseIn_Bloom) March 12, 2022
“Obviously all the refugees are women and children,” United Nations Refugee Agency head of Global Communications Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams said, according to the AP. “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.”
In another case, police in Wroclaw, Poland, detained a 49-year-old suspect Thursday, who allegedly raped a 19-year-old Ukrainian refugee whom he had lured over the internet with offers of help, the AP continued. The suspect faces up to 12 years in prison for the crime, which was described as “brutal” by local authorities, the outlet noted.
“He met the girl by offering his help via an internet portal,” police said in a statement, reported by the AP. “She escaped from war-torn Ukraine, did not speak Polish. She trusted a man who promised to help and shelter her. Unfortunately, all this turned out to be deceitful manipulation.”
German police are also warning Ukrainian refugees of human traffickers due to the number of reports they’ve received of men harassing young women fleeing the invasion of Russia, reported DW. (RELATED: Texas AG Ken Paxton Launches Human Trafficking Investigation Into TikTok)
Children are also going missing along almost all of Ukraine’s borders, the Guardian reported. Desperate Ukrainian parents are placing their children on trains out of the country to go meet with friends or relatives, but many are left wandering throughout platforms and stations upon arrival at their destination, as no one is there to pick them up, the Guardian continued.
“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,” a coordinator for a Polish human rights organization told the Guardian.