RUSSIA’S INVASION of Ukraine has caused a humanitarian crisis and prompted large numbers of refugees to flee from Ukraine to the EU, including many already in Spain.

Despite this crisis, opportunistic criminal networks will undoubtedly use this situation to further gain profits, strengthen their criminal activities and ruin lives of the most vulnerable.

THB is the acronym for the Trafficking of Human Beings, a decades old activity of abusing individuals and families already in a desperate predicament.

What is happening?

As well as the increasing challenges put on settlement destinations and countries of transit, authorities are encountering the problem of vetting the large number of volunteers in the border regions offering support to Ukrainians.

Torrevieja Ukraine Refugees 1
SAFE: Refugees arrive in Torrevieja on Spain’s southern Costa Blanca

THB criminal networks are likely to lure victims from the huge numbers of vulnerable refugees for exploitation.

This includes prostitution, slave labour and other types of exploitation such as illegal adoption of minors.

Promises of free transportation, accommodation and employment can easily sway the vulnerable into thinking THB gangs are there to help.

Abusers also look to social media groups set up innocently by volunteers to target refugees.

What can we do to help?

  • Everyone needs to remain alert in order to promptly identify criminal attempts to exploit the crisis and the vulnerable victims, themselves.
  • Be careful of information posted online. If you have a property intended to house refugees, inform the relevant authorities instead of making it public for trafficking gangs to find out where they’ll be living very shortly.
  • If victims of the war are housed in your neighbourhood, do the right thing and watch out for them when you can. Put yourself in your place and appreciate their trauma.

Don’t forget

Most of the people fleeing Ukraine are women, children and vulnerable persons, who are the ideal potential victims for criminal networks engaging in THB. 

Europol Offices 2

Women and children, including unaccompanied minors, are most at risk for sexual and labour exploitation as well as forced criminality and begging.  

The areas of most concern are the border areas, the reception and accommodation centres as well as public transport hubs such as train and bus stations.  

Countries receiving refugees from Ukraine need to remain alert for indications or attempts to recruit potential victims of trafficking in human beings.

This background and advice came as part of an official ‘Early Warning Notification’ published today. March 22, by Europol.

The EU-funded organisation is continuously monitoring the situation, with staff deployed and participating in fact-finding missions in the region. 

Europol continues to deliver operational support and stands as a platform for cooperation and information-sharing among law enforcement with relevant EU and non-EU partners.


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