The war in Ukraine: Children at risk for trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation

The war in Ukraine: Children at risk for trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation

One million children have fled Ukraine since the beginning of the war according to UNICEF. These children, and especially those unaccompanied, are in a very vulnerable situation where they besides the trauma of fleeing a war, also are at risk of being exposed to human trafficking and exploitation.

War greatly increases the risk of children going missing or being exploited by human traffickers. The European migration network estimates that 50 000 unaccompanied minors have gone missing in Europe between 2014 and 2020. The situations where children disappear are always different, but with the current number of children fleeing Ukraine, there’s a vast risk that many will go missing.

We have learnt from previous crises and wars that the risks of children disappearing are highest when crossing borders, at first reception centers and between insufficient child protection efforts. These are critical moments that human traffickers use to lure children by giving them false promises of safety and security.

In this critical phase, it is of paramount importance that the countries receiving children register them and continuously follow up by ensuring that the children are in a safe and secure place. It is also vital that there is a cross border collaboration that ensures that if and when a child leaves the country where she/he is first registered, the child is tracked and checked up on throughout their journey as well as in the destination country to ensure that their human rights are secured by providing adequate protection and access to services depending on their individual situation.

We are now in the most acute phase where millions of people are fleeing, and this is also the phase where children are at the highest risk of disappearing. National and regional decision makers like the EU need to make sure that all children coming from Ukraine, regardless of race, nationality, gender, or religion receive a safe and secure reception in both countries of transit and destination and that they are not exposed or subjected to further trauma.

At the moment, Child10 does not have any operations or partnering organizations in Ukraine but in adjoining areas, and we are working to connect actors and enhance knowledge to strengthen the support and care for the children that are now forced to flee their homes.

During this ongoing humanitarian crisis, we urge all of you who are following our work to get involved in the way you can. It can be by providing support to actors on site or to the ones working for a safe reception of those who flee.

Organizations working to support children in Ukraine:
Save the Children
World Childhood Foundation