Ukrainians still at risk of human trafficking, says Christian charity

The Assumption Cathedral in Kharkiv, Ukraine.(Photo: Pexels/Denys Olieinykov)

Christian campaigners have warned of the continued human trafficking threat to Ukrainians on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Christian charity CARE first raised concerns a year ago when the war broke out, prompting millions of Ukrainians to flee across the border into neighbouring countries.

A year on, CARE is again warning that Ukrainians risk being trafficked to the UK by criminals or being exploited once they reach here and try to claim asylum.

The charity cited several "concerning loopholes" in the UK government's Homes for Ukraine scheme, which invited members of the public to host refugees and receive monthly financial support to help cover costs.

Rebecca Stevenson, trafficking policy expert at CARE, has questioned whether adequate checks are being carried out to ensure that refugees being housed under the scheme are safe.

She called on UK ministers to raise the alarm about the risk and work with European agencies to protect refugees. 

"A year has now elapsed since Russia invaded Ukraine but the threat to Ukrainians leaving the country remains high. Traffickers are operating on the borders of the country to intercept and exploit vulnerable women and children," she said. 

"Thousands of Ukrainian nationals came here under the Homes for Ukraine scheme and were placed in various contexts. What checks are local governments and agencies carrying out to ensure these people aren't falling off the radar and into modern slavery?

"CARE constantly emphasised the need for ongoing welfare checks, but it is difficult to get a sense of what's happening on the ground. We have seen research suggesting refugees are struggling to find their own housing and work. Traffickers will prey on these individuals.

"We call on the UK Government, local authorities, and other relevant agencies to provide reassurance about refugee welfare. It would be an awful failing if any person who has come to our shores for sanctuary should be let down."