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Ukraine Crisis Update - Larysa*'s story

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Ukraine Crisis Update - Larysa*'s story

As refugees continue to flee Ukraine in search of safety, IJM and partners are on the ground, working to protect children and women like Larysa* from trafficking.

Written by Mariya*, IJM social worker, European Anti-Trafficking Programme
Updated 13 May 2022

While trying to escape the conflict in Ukraine, Larysa* met a man online who promised to take her to Italy to start a new life.

His real intentions soon became clear when he robbed her of 700 euros and left her at the Romanian border. Thankfully, she was picked up and cared for by a local shelter, trained and supported by IJM, who helped her to arrange safe transport to her chosen destination – Nuremburg in Germany.

Part way through her journey to Nuremburg, Larysa was contacted by another man she had met online while in Romania.

He persistently messaged her, convincing her with the promise of a job – a method often used by traffickers – to get on a bus to Berlin instead. Fortunately, the IJM-trained shelter team remained in close contact with Larysa and became aware of this unexpected change of plan and the man’s suspicious behaviour. They supported Larysa and advised her to get off the bus, arranging for her to be met by a trusted person and helping her to get on a train to Nuremburg, where a partner NGO picked her up. Now, Larysa is safe and staff are working with her to help her understand the risks of trafficking.

This is an example of why it’s so important to stay in touch with people as they journey to places of safety, and for shelters to be able to identify suspicious behaviour and signs of exploitation.

Since the start of the conflict, IJM has been working at the Ukraine-Romania border providing vital support, preventing exploitation and helping keep people like Larysa safe. This has included identifying and supporting women and children who are vulnerable, training agencies and shelters in how to identify trafficking, and working with authorities to distribute thousands of flyers at the border, making people aware of the signs and risks of trafficking, and the available helplines.

We’ve been helping to coordinate safe transport, reducing the risk of people accepting offers of transport from exploiters. In partnership with local NGOs, we’ve provided food, supplies and SIM cards, enabling families to stay in touch and charities to know when people have made it to their onward destination.

In addition, our team has been working with shelters to prevent trafficking at the Romania-Moldova border too and in larger urban areas like Bucharest. Through trusted partners in Ukraine, we’ve been sharing and distributing information on how to stay safe when crossing the border, including contact numbers for authorities with Ukrainian speakers, border control, and the emergency services. Having this important information, and time to digest it, before leaving Ukraine gives people helpful tools and prevents potential exploitation during the stressful, and often overwhelming, process of crossing the border.

We're establishing an anti-trafficking department within a partner organisation with significant experience in shelter and accommodation for refugees in multiple sites across Romania.

Set up and shaped by IJM, these partnerships focus on preventing trafficking and providing long term aftercare support for survivors. We have hired Ukrainian and Russian speaking protection officers to work at the border and with NGOs around the country. They will also work with authorities to help address potential trafficking cases.

We’re now scaling up our existing European Anti-Trafficking Programme more quickly in response to growing numbers of refugees, and the heightened vulnerability of already at-risk groups in Romania as resources are diverted to address the crisis.

Refugees who have recently crossed the border and travelled to cities in Romania face on-going risks related to the vulnerabilities of losing homes, livelihoods, and family connections – and these risks will only increase as their resources run out. We are working to ensure that those moving on from shelters have a trusted contact to help them integrate once they arrive at their destination and manage these mid to long term vulnerabilities, reducing the risk of trafficking.

We will continue doing all we can, together with partners, to prevent the trafficking of women and children.

We’d like to thank everyone who has supported our Ukraine crisis appeal and made this work possible. Your kindness is having a powerful impact. If you’d like to help provide ongoing support and protection to women and children at risk of trafficking, you can donate now by clicking the button below.


Images used are not representative of Larysa. *Pseudonyms used.

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