Europol warned on Monday of the risk faced by Ukrainian refugees fleeing the invasion of their country, of falling into human trafficking networks upon arrival in the European Union (EU).
“The number of potential victims arriving from Ukraine may attract individual and opportunistic aggressors posing as benevolent volunteers, as well as criminal networks specializing in trafficking in human beings,” the European police agency warned in a statement.
According to Europol, the areas of greatest concern are the border areas, the reception and shelter centres and the train and bus stations.
Eastern Europe has been a key region of origin for victims of trafficking in human beings exploited in the EU. And it is the source of many of the criminal networks, according to Europol.
The majority of people fleeing Ukraine are women, children and vulnerable persons exposed to the risk of sexual exploitation.
“Countries hosting refugees from Ukraine must be attentive to indications or attempts to attract potential victims of trafficking in human beings,” Europol insisted.
About 3.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion, according to UN data released on Monday.