Growing international concern that Ukrainian refugees may be targeted by human traffickers

The Highlights
  • 4 million people have fled Ukraine since the war started.
  • The European Union has a “Temporary Protection Directive” in place, and it is helping refugees stay safe from potential traffickers.
  • The State Department is also asking governments to share information about human trafficking warning signs online and in multiple languages.
  • Frontline countries are stepping up police patrols at transportations hubs, borders, and reception centers.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 4 million people have fled Ukraine since the war started there in late February.

Many of them are women and children because of Ukraine’s exit restriction on men who are 18-60.

Now there’s concern those refugees could become victims of human trafficking.

>>>MORE: Latest on the War in Ukraine.

Members of Congress say this is a serious concern and they are reviewing efforts by the international community and NGOs to keep those refugees safe.

The U.S. State Department says there are some reports indicating that human traffickers are already in border areas and trying to lure refugees in with promises of housing, onward transportation, or employment.

Dr. Kari Johnstone works at the U.S. State Department’s Office to monitor and combat trafficking in persons.

She told lawmakers the European Union has a “Temporary Protection Directive” in place, and it is helping refugees stay safe from potential traffickers.

Dr. Johnston said this process provides immediate protections for refugees including legal residency, access to jobs and housing and even education for kids.

Officials say more frontline countries are stepping up police patrols at transportations hubs, borders, and reception centers.

They are also asking international governments to register individuals and groups who want to help.

“Hopefully do some basic background checks as more time allows to ensure that we don’t have known criminals who are to recruit or offer help in those situations and as children are coming making sure their registration systems in place so we can track their whereabouts,” said Dr. Johnstone.

The State Department is also asking governments to share information about human trafficking warning signs online and in multiple languages.

“Sharing information about what are some of the risks to look for so they can understand that if someone asks you for your passport and they’re not a government official, don’t give it to them. Don’t give someone your cell phone,” said Dr. Johnstone. “If there are offers that are too good to be true they probably are so encouraging people to have a really skeptical approach to some of the kind offers.”