Former British Prime Minister Theresa May has urged the Government to “act with urgency” over reports of human traffickers targeting unaccompanied child refugees who are fleeing Ukraine.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mrs May said: “The issue I want to raise is the issue of the trafficking of Ukrainian people, particularly unaccompanied Ukrainian child refugees at the border areas. This is happening in Poland and other countries where Ukrainian refugees are fleeing to.”
“It’s a sad reflection on human nature that the very point where these women and children are fleeing Ukraine for their safety, to find refuge elsewhere, the criminal gangs have moved on to make money from the trafficking of what they consider to be yet another commodity – that is, human beings. They are attempting to make money out of this human distress and vulnerability.
“The human traffickers moved in within a day or so of refugees starting to come across the borders. We have seen the photographs at the borders; we know that the numbers are such that this can be chaotic. It is very difficult. There are many unaccompanied children coming over – not necessarily orphans, but children who may not have their family with them when they come in.
“Some of those children don’t have papers. The Polish authorities, I understand, are making valiant efforts to look for papers, to find papers, to photograph children, to find some sort of record of the children to identify them. But, what we know is that there is no database, there is no real means of that identification and tracking of what is happening to those children. It’s been suggested a database is needed, and efforts are being made to encourage the tech companies to help, and do so quickly, by creating a database to identify and track these children to make sure they are not unidentified, and there is not the opportunity for the criminal gangs to be able to take them away without anybody knowing that they have been there or were there, being taken.
“There are many ways, as the minister has outlined, in which the United Kingdom is rightly supporting Ukraine, and putting pressure on Russia to stop their illegal invasion. But we have to look beyond the obvious – I suggest the opportunities for traffickers in these border areas is not the obvious, but it is sadly something which will lead to considerable further human misery. I trust that the government will take this issue on board and will act with urgency.”
This issue is why Hope for Justice has joined nearly 60 leading charities and individuals in the fight against human trafficking in signing an open letter condemning the invasion and demanding protection against trafficking for the most vulnerable.