Combating human trafficking & providing aid for Ukrainian refugees

With its open borders with Western Europe, Romania has become a hub for human trafficking. The Eastern European state is one of three countries within the EU that consistently have the highest rate of human trafficking. This has become even more acute since the start of the war in Ukraine.

An estimated two million people in Europe live in slavery. Poverty and a lack of prospects, as well as inadequate prosecution of the perpetrators, lead them into sexual and labor exploitation. Criminals exploit the economic hardship in many households to make false job promises. They adapt their business models to the new realities and increasingly use the Internet to recruit people. Romania is considered a hub of transnational human trafficking in Europe.

In its current situation report, the United Nations assumes that the number of trafficked persons will increase even further as a result of the war in Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war, millions of Ukrainians have fled across the border to Romania. Especially women and children are in danger of being deceived by traffickers with false promises. With the support of the knodel foundation, IJM has been able to protect thousands of Ukrainian refugees from the risk of human trafficking and exploitation in Romania since the beginning of the war.

A holistic approach against human trafficking

With funding from the knodel foundation, IJM has been able to combat transnational human trafficking with a local presence in Romania since 2019. The long-term goal of the project is to significantly reduce the number of trafficked persons along the main trafficking corridors by prosecuting the perpetrators. A key to this is gaining the trust of trafficked persons in effective support from the justice system. Only then will they be willing to take their case to court and pursue it until the trafficker is convicted.

IJM therefore trains law enforcement authorities as well as partner organizations in the professional handling and counseling of trafficked persons and in multidisciplinary cooperation. At the same time, IJM supports individual cases as well as existing programs to combat and analyze cases of transnational and domestic human trafficking. In order to promote a transnational cooperation between authorities, non-governmental organizations and local actors throughout Europe, the knodel foundation is supporting IJM in extending the anti-trafficking program to Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria in the future.

Aid program for Ukrainians

The additional aid provided by our project partner for Ukrainian refugees in Romania already benefited more than 5,000 women and children in 2022. IJM assists them with legal and logistical matters, as well as arranging safe housing, transportation and medical care. Moreover, the organization assists with job searching and screens potential employers to protect refugees from Ukraine from false offers.

More than 90 participants from police, social services, church, and local organizations were sensitized and trained in partnership with the Romanian National Authority Against Trafficking in Persons (ANITP) to protect and support thousands more refugees from Ukraine with coordinated actions.

Working together with the government, administrative bodies and various partners, IJM distributes information materials and highlights the high risk of Ukrainian refugees for exploitation and trafficking. The human rights organization monitors the situation at border crossings, assesses the protection needs of refugees, and informs authorities and partners about them.

With the support of the knodel foundation, IJM will continue to protect Ukrainian refugees in Romania. Through training and awareness campaigns, partner organizations, volunteers and government agencies as well as refugees themselves will be empowered to recognize the signs of trafficking and effectively address them.