23 April 2020
Extended lockdown of many businesses and unemployment growth caused by COVID-19 quarantine measures led to economic insecurity of many groups. Former victims of trafficking are among these vulnerable categories.
Oksana* lives in a small town of the central Ukraine. As there was a lack of employment opportunities in her native town, she left for Poland to earn some money, but got to situation of labour exploitation. In half a year she managed to return home, without money, sick and frustrated, as she could not provide for her two children. Identified as a victim of human trafficking by one of IOM’s partner NGOs, she was referred to IOM reintegration programme. Oksana applied for Canada-funded self-employment project, finished hairdressers’ courses, received an in-kind grant and opened her own beauty salon. Everything went well until the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and all beauty salons in Ukraine were closed. Oksana’s husband, a long-distance trucker, was dismissed without pay. Her mother’s pension appeared to be the only income their family received in March. The situation gets even worse as Oksana must pay for her salon rent...
Unfortunately, there are hundreds of stories like Oksana’s. To provide quick response for the challenges posed by novel coronavirus pandemic, the current project “Combatting Trafficking of Children and Youth in Ukraine” (YCAT), funded by Global Affairs Canada, was reprogrammed. In particular, IOM provides additional financial support to 32 former victims of trafficking (of them 26 women), who started microbusinesses with support from Global Affairs Canada, but had to stop due to quarantine restrictions losing the only source of income for them and their families. IOM also provides one-time financial cash assistance to most vulnerable victims of trafficking recently identified and included into IOM Reintegration Programme to ensure that their basic food, hygiene and health-related needs are covered until the quarantine ends and further comprehensive rehabilitation and reintegration of trafficking survivors becomes possible.
The image below shows all YCAT reprogramming steps taken.
“During the first quarter of 2020 the number of victims of trafficking identified and assisted by IOM in Ukraine almost doubled, compared to similar data in 2019,” said Anh Nguyen, IOM Ukraine’s Chief of Mission. “We expect these numbers to grow in future. IOM’s experience suggests that crises, which lead to an insecure economic situation, cause an increase in vulnerability for trafficking and exploitation. Nowadays we are reprograming all our activities to provide the substantial and immediate COVID-19 response for the most vulnerable.”
Countering human trafficking is one of programme priorities of the IOM, Mission in Ukraine. Since 1998, over 16,600 victims were identified and assisted. The assistance included medical, psychological and legal aid, family care, vocational training and self-employment support.
Funded by Global Affairs Canada, “Combatting Trafficking of Children and Youth in Ukraine” (YCAT) project is implemented by IOM and OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine since 2014. The project supports interventions in the three interrelated spheres of protection, prevention and prosecution. It is guided by the overall goal to contribute to female and male victims of trafficking and persons at risk, particularly children and youth, being better protected and assisted in line with international human rights standards.
*The name has been changed to protect privacy.