Europe is in the grip of the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Conflict in Ukraine has forced millions of women and children to flee their homes, leaving behind homes, jobs and support. They're now scattered throughout Europe and further afield - but the danger isn't over. Traumatized and running out of resources, they're facing the risk of trafficking.
With the support and prayer of Christians around the world, IJM and partners protected thousands of refugees crossing the border when the war first broke out. But it's now more important than ever for Christians to put our faith into action. We need to stand together to protect families from the horror of trafficking, as they try to rebuild their lives in other countries.
Trafficking in Europe, including into the UK, was an established problem before the war. Through our European anti-trafficking work over the past two years, we've seen the appalling reality of vulnerable people trafficked to the UK for sexual exploitation and forced labour. Now, with millions of women and children in vulnerable situations, more people are at risk - and the risk is only likely to increase in the coming weeks and months.
Women and children are travelling through areas in Europe known to be trafficking hotspots. Traffickers, who commonly deceive people with false offers of work, accomodation and money, now have an easy target. As they run out of income and savings, refugees are likely to become desperate, meaning they are more likely to accept risky offers. Many are unaware of their right to work, access healthcare and financial support within Europe, making them even more susceptible.
But we've seen that there is hope. Since the start of the conflict, IJM has been partnering with churches, authorities and shelters in Romania to protect people from trafficking. Together, we've been raising awareness of risks, providing safeguarding training, and connecting refugees with vetted shelter, accommodation and legal advice.
One church in Romania, with support and training from IJM, is running five refugee centres, offering housing, trauma-informed care and long-term support to hundreds of refugees. Refugees are finding safety and hope as Christians live out their faith through this opportunity to love our neighbours and stand up for vulnerable people.
We're seeing the incredible difference this support is making. An IJM social worker recently helped to safeguard a Ukrainian mother with two young children who had been offered accommodation by a man she didn't know. The man wouldn't give her an address but told her to meet him, so that he could take her there himself.
Desperate for a home, she had accepted his offer until she told a member of IJM's protection team, who identified it as suspicious and helped her to look into it further. She chose not to accept the offer and we helped her to stay in safe, vetted accommodation instead.
We're so grateful to God that we've helped protect thousands of refugees from trafficking already– but we can't stop now. More families are likely to find themselves in desperate situations in the coming weeks and months. It's vital that we expand our anti-trafficking work now, to reach them before traffickers do.
The outpouring of support and prayer at the start of the conflict allowed us to protect women and children. Now we have another crucial window to prevent trafficking, and we're asking Christians in the UK to stand with us.
We'd hugely value your prayers and support as we scale our anti-trafficking work into more countries in Europe. Visit IJMUK.org/urgentappeal to find out more.
Together, we can stop traffickers in their tracks.