Europol: Several Trafficking Schemes Targeting Ukrainian Refugee Women Identified

A woman fleeing from Ukraine looks through the train's window at the train station in
Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The European Union law enforcement agency Europol has announced that it has identified several trafficking schemes directed toward vulnerable refugee women from Ukraine leading to sexual and labour exploitation.

The police agency was able to identify various trafficking schemes online, going through 125 different platforms across 14 separate countries and was able to identify at least nine alleged people traffickers and began fifteen investigations as a result.

The agency said in a press release that nine possible victims of human trafficking were also identified and that the operation, labelled a “hackathon” was led by investigators from the Netherlands, the European Union-funded website InfoMigrants reports.

“During the action day, investigators identified suspicious advertisements targeting Ukrainian refugees, looked into tips received from citizens, reviewed indicators of potential trafficking of human beings for sexual and labour exploitation and updated their situational awareness on existing online platforms linked to trafficking activities,” Europol said.

According to the agency, Ukrainian women have been targetted by posts in Russian offering “photo shoots” and other suspicious job offers saying, “Investigators identified attempts to lure victims through offers of a ‘bright future’, which tricked them into sexual exploitation, or accommodation offers specifically targeted at Ukrainian refugees.”

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, many have expressed concern that Ukrainian refugee women and children could fall victim to human traffickers.

Shirin Tinnesand, refugee and migration coordinator at the NGO Wadi warned of the possibility that refugees could become victims in early March saying, “they are at risk of being exposed to human trafficking, prostitution, organ donation. Only imagination sets the limits.”

Tinnesand  spoke out about reports of men at train stations acting suspiciously around Ukrainian refugees saying, “It is a fact that people smugglers pretend to be volunteers who go to places where it is chaotic and where there is no clear organization and the more people who come, the more inconspicuous it becomes and with it easier for smugglers and criminal organizations to operate.”

Since then there have been some reports of Ukrainian refugees being exploited, including a report from April that claimed refugees were being exploited in a counterfeit cigarette factory in a town just south of Rome.

In Sweden, there have also been reports of Ukrainian women being involved in prostitution as a Swedish police operation that busted 38 men purchasing sex in March found that the majority of women involved were Ukrainian.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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