Home News Commonweal funds new research into human trafficking in Ukraine

Harry Williams

Harry is the Policy and Communications Manager at Commonweal Housing

Commonweal funds new research into human trafficking in Ukraine

Commonweal Housing has provided funding to modern slavery prevention organisation STOP THE TRAFFIK to support its Europe-wide research operation, helping to shine a light on patterns of migration and trafficking for those fleeing the war in Ukraine.

The research was conducted via interviews with experts and academics, the findings of which have been targeted at businesses and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) across Europe. These include key recommendations for relevant businesses and NGOs to help prevent human trafficking or mitigate its impacts.

The research indicates a risk of exploitation that spans countries across Europe, including the United Kingdom, and includes instances of forced labour, domestic servitude, and sexual violence and exploitation.

The research also shows that the war has changed the nature of trafficking in eastern Europe, causing a shift from labour trafficking to sexual trafficking, although labour exploitation is still common. Female-dominated job sectors are particularly susceptible to exploitation, the research reveals.

The interviews identified examples of Ukrainian refugees being forced into domestic servitude, such as cooking and cleaning in a private residence, as a condition for the provision of accommodation, including in the UK. It is especially likely to be an issue where the displaced family includes vulnerable elderly members who are not independent, the research shows.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Commonweal sought to provide funding to organisations working around human trafficking prevention. The charity approached STOP THE TRAFFIK and provided funding to support a research campaign the NGO was investigating at the time.

The funding towards STOP THE TRAFFIK’s campaign followed additional financial support provided to international homelessness charity Depaul International, both as part of Commonweal’s response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Commonweal and STOP THE TRAFFIK are working together to raise awareness of the findings and offer key recommendations to NGOs and businesses. This includes distributing pamphlets to relevant NGOs and businesses across Europe, as well as a webinar to offer additional insights and answer potential questions.

The 1-hour virtual webinar and workshop is on 18 October 2022 at 11:00 am. Sign up below.

Other key elements of the findings include:

  • Social media being used by traffickers, including Facebook, TikTok, Telegram and Viber
  • The rights of third-country nationals in other European countries who are fleeing the war in Ukraine are often less than those of Ukrainians fleeing the war
  • The Homes for Ukraine schemes is failing families and minors
  • Many children have been taken to Russia from Ukrainian orphanages and boarding schools
  • Demographics most at risk are:
    • Unaccompanied minors leaving and remaining in Ukraine
    • Women and girls, and women with children leaving and remaining in Ukraine
    • Those who have disabilities and serious illnesses such as mental health issues
    • Teenagers and young adults who are caring for younger siblings
    • LGBTQ+ people in Ukraine (who were beaten whilst sheltering in metro stations from the bombing)
    • The elderly
    • Those living in extreme poverty – specifically the Hungarian minorities at the Western border of Ukraine
    • Third-country nationals.

Ashley Horsey, Chief Executive at Commonweal Housing, said: “As the war in Ukraine continues to displace millions, it is vital that governments, businesses, and NGOs across Europe are aware of the emerging trends in human trafficking and are equipped with the knowledge to deal with it. This is why Commonweal approached and funded STOP THE TRAFFIK in this significant research operation, to support a front-line organisation and help shine a light on a major and emerging injustice in migration and trafficking.”

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