How to Stop Human Traffickers From Exploiting the War in Ukraine




Diplomacy and Foreign Relations, Global Governance, Civil Society, Conflict Resolution and Mediation, Human Rights and Migration

By Eirliani Abdul Rahman

For more than a month there has been war in Ukraine. “In this war, like all others before it, women and children are likely to be disproportionately the victims. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 7.5 million children are in grave danger of physical harm, severe emotional distress and trauma, and displacement”,  Eirliani writes in an article in the Harvard Kennedy School Review.

There is a great risk that Ukrainian women and children who have fled will become victims of human traffickers. “Stories of trafficked and sexually assaulted Ukrainian women, and unaccompanied children who have gone missing, abound”, Eirliani writes in an article on human trafficking for the Diplomatic Courier.

Even before the Ukraine war, human trafficking was a major issue. “A 2020 European Commission report estimates the annual global profit from the crime is €29.4 billion ($32 billion).” After the Crimean conflict, the profiles of the people involved had changed: Whereas previously it was often women and children who were forced into prostitution, put into forced labor or were sold, increasingly urban young men have also been trafficked into labor like drug trafficking.

The difference since the invasion of Ukraine is that traffickers’ access to potential victims has increased exponentially, with 3 million Ukrainians–including more than 1 million children–having fled the country“, writes Eirliani.

The often chaotic and unstructured conditions in receiving facilities, for example in Berlin, also facilitate the work of human traffickers. The refugees, tired of fleeing and long travels, become potential victims. “Those travelling alone, who do not understand the local language, and/or have no local networks, face additional challenges on top of the trauma they are facing from having witnessed the brutalities of war. While there are many volunteers who truly intend to help, it is not difficult for traffickers to slip among their midst so long as there are no registration and/or vetting processes,” writes Eirliani in the article.

Refugees need to be informed more about their rights, and transnational rules are also needed, such as “the urgency of registering the national identification documents and/or registration plates of vehicles of those who have offered to help the Ukrainian refugees”.

In her article, Eirlani cites what meaningful help might look like: “If you are a private citizen intending to help in volunteer efforts and come across a child who is alone, kindly note the following guidelines, adapted from UNICEF.

For all German-speaking people there is also an interview with Eirliani about the topic.

In the article cited first, Eirliani also provides impetus for rethinking how to deal with the current situation: “War on Ukraine: Time for a Feminist Foreign Policy?”

While on social media, as recently in Afghanistan, the suffering of the people on the ground is visible in videos and pictures every day, there is the political worldwide discussion about what steps Putin will take, how the West and NATO will react, what support and weapons supplies there might be.

So Eirliani writes about this approach: “But suppose we could reimagine a world where we stop looking at security from a militarized lens. Instead, women, children and the most vulnerable in society are central to decision-making and their needs accounted for in every aspect of policy-making. This approach, called feminist foreign policy (FFP), may hold the key to getting to the roots of conflicts and challenging the current neoliberal underpinnings of international political discourse. The stark difference between realpolitik and the FFP as frameworks is that the latter brings the welfare of the vulnerable to the fore.”

This would mean changing the focus away from power-focused realpolitik to citizen welfare prioritizing decisions: “Where realpolitik is focused on the state’s interests as an actor, this new Russia would be examining the intersection of patriarchy, colonization, capitalism, racism, imperialism and militarism. This means acknowledging the Ukrainian people as its own nation and not as “Russia Minor”, and not stamping out non-Russian cultures and languages.”

Read the entire article here.


About the author:

Eirliani Abdul Rahman is the co-founder of YAKIN, an NGO working in the field of child rights and child protection issues and she continuously aims at raising awareness for survivors of sexual child abuse, the consequences of child labor and mental health issues.

Published on March 30, 2022.

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