UNICEF warns 1.5 million children fleeing Ukraine at risk of trafficking and exploitation
The United Nations Children’s Fund says the threat of child trafficking and exploitation is “real and growing” as more than 1.5 million children have fled Ukraine for Russia. According to the agency, a child becomes a war refugee almost every second.
“The war in Ukraine is causing massive displacement and refugee flows — conditions that could lead to a significant increase in human trafficking and an acute child protection crisis,” UNICEF’s regional director for Europe and Central Asia said in a statement on Saturday.
Between February 24 and March 17, more than 500 unaccompanied children were identified en route from Ukraine to Romania, but the number of unaccompanied children fleeing is likely much higher, UNICEF reported. According to the United Nations, more than 3 million people have fled Ukraine in 20 days.
UNICEF reports that unaccompanied children are “particularly vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation”.
A recent study conducted by UNICEF and the Inter-Agency Coordination Group Against Trafficking found that 28% of identified global victims of human trafficking are children. UNICEF officials said they believe Ukrainian children make up an even higher percentage of the global percentage, as children and women are almost all fleeing Ukraine.
UNICEF encourages the governments of countries hosting refugees to step up their child protection checks at border crossings, with a focus on Ukraine’s neighboring countries. The agency is also calling on governments and child protection agencies in different countries to cooperate across borders and conduct more checks at shelters and other places where refugees gather and transit.
“Children fleeing the war in Ukraine need to be screened for their vulnerability when crossing over to a neighboring country,” Khan said. “Every effort should be made to strengthen control procedures at refugee crossing points.”
The UN Migration Agency Mission in Ukraine is asking for monetary donations to provide assistance to refugees fleeing Ukraine, as well as those who have been displaced in the country.