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21 February, 2013

Help Put Human Traffickers Out of Work

Ukraine has traditionally been a country of origin and transit, but lately it is increasingly a destination country for trafficked men, women and children.

Imagine that you have a new job but quickly, albeit too late, realize that it is not what you have expected. And now imagine that your employer is not going to let you go and has even taken your passport to prevent you from running away. You are not being paid money – only given some food, while you have to do hard physical labour or, even worse, provide sexual services, and many of those around you are children forced to beg for money.

This is the harsh reality faced by thousands of people across the world. They are unable to comprehend how they have ended up in slavery or have been trafficked out of their countries to become hostages to unscrupulous employers who are not in the least concerned about their problems.

Human trafficking means actions that include hiring, transporting, transferring, concealing or obtaining persons through threats, violence or other forms of coercion for the purpose of exploitation. Every year, thousands of men, women and children across the world fall prey to traffickers in their countries and abroad. No country in the world has been spared this evil – all of them are source, destination or transit countries for human slaves.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) jointly with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are cooperating with the government of Ukraine to combat human trafficking and rehabilitate its victims.

READ ALSO: Elusive Slave Owners

The USAID anti-trafficking initiative is part of wider efforts by the U.S. government to fight this crime. Our goal is to inform those who are most likely to become victim of human traffickers, provide assistance to law enforcement agencies and give them tools that will help find optimal ways to combat this type of crime, as well as to foster social reintegration of victims through counselling, professional training and teaching specialist skills.

Ukraine has traditionally been a country of origin and transit, but lately it is increasingly a destination country for trafficked men, women and children. A survey on human trafficking in Ukraine carried out several years ago showed that over 110,000 persons who sought employment abroad since 1991 experienced a certain type of slavery. An estimated 70 per cent of them were women, who were coerced into sexual exploitation and/or forced labour. Most victims identified by IOM in 2011 were trafficked to Russia or Poland. Construction, agriculture and industry remain the main areas of worker exploitation.

With the cooperation of USAID and IOM, the government of Ukraine has launched a national victim referral mechanism which makes it possible to monitor their condition and assess their need for assistance and facilitates their reintegration.

READ ALSO: Investigations Without Borders

It has recently been reported that the number of victims trafficked for sexual exploitation has dropped in Ukraine. USAID hopes that this information is true and that our continued efforts to inform risk  groups about this danger will be directly instrumental in a further decrease of sexual exploitation. If awareness is a guarantee of victory in the battle against traffickers of innocent people, every person should remember the following:

•        Human traffickers usually try to lure their future victims by offering extremely attractive working conditions. You need to understand that if an offer seems too attractive, it is most likely a fraud.

•        If you would like to work abroad, try to obtain as much information as possible about your potential employer and place of work.

•        Do not be afraid to ask about who can provide references about the employer and proposed job, including specific addresses and telephone numbers.

•        Once you are abroad, never surrender your passport.

Every year, the Network of Ukrainian Women’s NGOs together with IOM and USAID mark International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, 2 December, by holding a 16-day campaign to draw public attention to the problem of trafficking in persons. We invite you to join this event. More information about the campaign can be found at http://www.vsirivni.com.ua/16.

READ ALSO: A Human Life: Priceless No More

We have already made crucial progress towards solving issues related to human trafficking and combating this phenomenon, but we should not stop, because the scale of the problem is colossal. This type of crime will exist as long as there are people who are willing to take risks, because they are unaware of the danger involved and do not know how to avoid it. One who cannot or is unwilling to recognize these risks can fall victim to criminals. Therefore, try to learn as much as you can about possible risks and dangers and help put human traffickers out of work!

Jed Barton is USAID Mission Director to Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus

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