Home News Webinar helps NGOs and businesses mitigate trafficking risks for displaced Ukrainians, by Commonweal and STOP THE TRAFFIK

Lauren Aronin

Lauren is the Communications Officer at Commonweal Housing

Webinar helps NGOs and businesses mitigate trafficking risks for displaced Ukrainians, by Commonweal and STOP THE TRAFFIK

Equipped with new research on the migration and trafficking trends emerging from the war in Ukraine, Commonweal Housing and STOP THE TRAFFIK have run a targeted information campaign culminating in a webinar with businesses and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Following qualitative interviews with experts and academics across Europe, STOP THE TRAFFIK – an NGO that combats human trafficking and modern slavery – has drawn out key insights and recommendations for relevant businesses and NGOs to help prevent human trafficking or mitigate its impact. 

The research confirmed risks of exploitation across Europe, which includes cases of domestic servitude, forced labour, and sexual violence and exploitation. The interviews found women and girls, the LGBTQ+ community, unaccompanied minors, and the elderly among the demographics most at risk of trafficking and exploitation.

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Commonweal commissioned STOP THE TRAFFIK’s research into trafficking risks for those fleeing Ukraine and has been working with STOP THE TRAFFIK to distribute the findings to relevant businesses and NGOs in the United Kingdom (UK) and Europe. 

To further support organisations impacted by trafficking, Commonweal hosted a workshop with experts from STOP THE TRAFFIK, which provided NGOs, businesses, and policy-makers with additional insights from the interviews and how they can protect against trafficking.

The session was chaired by Professor Jonathan Portes, an expert on trafficking and labour markets and a Trustee at Commonweal Housing, alongside panelists Elizabeth Peck, Business Engagement Officer at STOP THE TRAFFIK and the research lead, and Jason Nunn, Director of Finance Against Trafficking at STOP THE TRAFFIK.

Peck presented the key findings uncovered from the interviews and ways NGOs working with Ukrainians can protect against trafficking risks. She highlighted how the research indicated trafficking trends have shifted from labour trafficking towards sexual trafficking, although labour exploitation remains a significant concern, with female-dominated sectors like cleaning and care at heightened risk of exploitation.

The interviews also identified cases of displaced Ukrainians being forced into domestic servitude – accommodation tied to performing a service for the host – and social media platforms such as Facebook and TikTok being used by traffickers to target vulnerable Ukrainians looking for accommodation or work.

To help mitigate these risks, Peck encouraged NGOs working with Ukrainians to help “build awareness of the different types of trafficking and how to spot the signs”. She also recommended that NGOs alert Ukrainians on the use of social media as a tool for exploitation and the risks attached to finding accommodation or jobs through social channels.

Nunn outlined ways businesses can safeguard supply chains against trafficking and best support Ukrainian refugees searching for work. STOP THE TRAFFIK recommends businesses that are invested in or operate within supply chains linked to sectors susceptible to trafficking carry out proper risk assessments to ensure there are robust anti-slavery measures in place.

As such, Nunn encouraged businesses to implement additional checks throughout the recruitment process to ensure “transparency and collaboration across the supply chain” so suppliers do not risk hiring victims of trafficking.

To ensure workers are aware of their rights and understand their contractual requirements, Nunn advised businesses to provide documentation in Ukrainian and Russian languages. He also suggested businesses “set up support networks to help workers and their families establish their new lives in the UK and provide guidance to help them settle into the country, such as signing up for a GP and setting up a bank account”.

Following this, Portes facilitated the Q&A session of the webinar, which saw Peck and Nunn provide their expert guidance to organisations seeking to assist Ukrainian refugees and protect against trafficking.

Trafficking and homelessness charities and NGOs should work with local authorities, sharing their knowledge and expertise to ensure councils can best deal with the needs of victims of trafficking, Peck suggested in response to a question about support for local authorities.

While Ukrainian refugees establish themselves in work and accommodation, “banks can set Ukrainians up with temporary bank accounts consisting of less stringent checks” – Nunn responded when asked how Banks can address the challenges refugees face accessing a bank account.

The workshop coincided with ‘Anti-Slavery Day’ a national day aiming to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery and encourage government, local authorities, companies, and charities to do what they can to address the problem.

Elizabeth Peck, Business Engagement Project Officer at STOP THE TRAFFIK, said: “We thank everyone who attended the workshop for being part of this important conversation on how to prevent trafficking risks for displaced Ukrainians. We are also very thankful for Commonweal’s support in funding this research and raising awareness of the key findings and recommendations for businesses and NGOs.”

If you wish to find out more about STOP THE TRAFFIK’s research you can find the pamphlets below:

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