Solutions to mitigate the risk of human trafficking in war affected refugee communities
BUCHAREST, 26 April 2023. The eLiberare Association developed and presented today, in a press conference organized together with UNICEF Romania, "Kompass", the first Intervention Model in Romania for reducing the risk of human trafficking and sexual exploitation among war refugees and the first Guide for educating children and adolescents in Ukrainian refugee communities to protect themselves from human traffickers, "The Kozak Family learn to keep safe".
The materials were prepared within the framework of the "Kompass" programme, running since May 2022, for the prevention of human trafficking within the Ukrainian refugee community in Romania. Interventions took place in refugee communities in Alba, Bucharest, Suceava, Dolj, Botoșani, Brașov, Tulcea, Galați, Neamț, Timiș, Oradea, Dâmbovița, Vâlcea, Iași, Sibiu, Alba-Iulia. eLiberare included Ukrainian experts in the team who made a decisive contribution and implemented the model in collaboration with several NGOs in Romania: LOGS-Grup de Inițiative Sociale in Timișoara, People to People Foundation in Oradea, IZA Association in Tulcea, ASSOC in Baia Mare.
"Refugee communities are targeted by human traffickers for sexual and labour exploitation. Therefore, based on our intervention for refugees from Ukraine who came to Romania, we created a four-step intervention model, which we made available to authorities and NGOs at home and abroad, to quickly operationalise a system of protection and prevention of displaced persons. In addition, we have also formulated 10 recommendations for action for authorities and civil society, based on the vulnerabilities faced by refugees. All the information is contained in the Kompass Report, which we will make available online. It is essential that we act faster than the traffickers, because every life counts," said Loredana Urzică-Mirea, eLiberare Executive Director.
"UNICEF remains deeply committed to work together with its partners – authorities, civil society organizations and private sector – to protect refugee children and their families coming from Ukraine. Children fleeing war are at heightened risk of human trafficking and exploitation, as data shows that 28 per cent of identified victims of trafficking globally are children. Since the first days of the crisis, we have been working day and night to strengthen screening processes at the borders. Amongst the key elements of our response were the Blue Dot hubs, one-stop safe spaces for children and women, that UNICEF set up together with UNHCR and its partners as well as other prevention and protection activities, including the training and awareness raising initiatives in partnership with e-Liberare", said Anna Riatti, UNICEF Representative in Romania.
The Kompass report will be offered to authorities and other non-governmental organisations at home and abroad for use with war refugee and at-risk communities. The guide will be offered free of charge to beneficiaries, both online and in physical format.
Four steps and 10 recommendations for a successful intervention
The four steps for a successful intervention in support of refugee communities, according to the Kompass model, are:
1. Awareness – quickly and comprehensively providing the information displaced people need, in their own language or in a foreign language they know and on platforms accessible to them. The information must relate to all aspects of life, such as documents, medical services, financial support, employment and prevention of exploitation through labor, access to education, prevention and intervention services and support in case of attempted recovery for sexual exploitation, etc. The development of the Guide for children and adolescents to protect themselves from traffickers is part of this effort, as are the resources below:
● dedicated Telegram channel - https://t.me/kompassworld
● assistance dedicated to those in transit - https://kompass.world
● prevention of labor exploitation - https://robotainfo.com
● the YouTube channel - eLiberare Romania
● Crisis Textline release on WhatsApp at +40 𝟕𝟓𝟕 𝟕𝟒𝟗 𝟖𝟒𝟓
● LIVE information sessions https://www.instagram.com/kompass.world/
2. Supporting refugees to deal with local bureaucracy and to be able to travel to Europe to their final destinations. The eLiberare Association held over 8,400 information sessions and offered 1,795 packages with what is needed to ensure personal dignity.
3. The development of individual safety plans, so that every citizen is protected from the risk of human trafficking. Over 3000 people have benefited from such personal safety plans from eLiberare and over 1600 have had their own safety passwords to use in case of danger.
4. Assistance for the refugees who go further, in collaboration with organizations from the destination countries, and for those who remain in Romania, to be able to integrate into the labor market in the right way and to receive the services provided by the local authorities.
The recommendations for action made by eLiberare, starting from the vulnerabilities that expose refugees to human trafficking, refer to: coordination of state structures and civil society, to avoid duplication of actions and the use of the National Identification and Referral Mechanism; unitary data collection; discouraging the demand for sexual services involving women from the refugee community; promoting the best interest of the child; creating a system for validating job and accommodation offers to avoid human trafficking; the existence of a 24/7 problem reporting line, in the Ukrainian language; social assistance in the context of trauma awareness; inclusion – consultations between NGOs and community representatives, to prevent trafficking; integration (fair employment, acceleration of vocational equivalencies, language courses, access to safe accommodation, healthcare, childcare solutions and school integration).
The eLiberare intervention in the humanitarian crisis was funded by ActionAid, Americares, Arise Foundation, Atlas Free, CARE, Federation of Non-Governmental Organizations for Children, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, Project Hope and the Romanian-American Foundation, with the support of UNICEF in Romania.
How we help children and teenagers protect themselves from traffickers
Constructed as a story with cartoon characters, the Guide for Parents, Educators, Social Workers and Community Intervention Specialists to Educate Children and Adolescents to Protect Themselves from Traffickers was created around imaginary people inspired by the Ukrainian community – the family Kozaks, a mother with her three children, arrived in Romania, following the war in Ukraine: Ivan, the son, aged 16, Nasti (Anastasia), the daughter, 12, Nina, the youngest of the family, aged 3-4 and their mother.
The story exposes potentially dangerous situations for the three children, to highlight the risks they are exposed to, through the lens of human trafficking. Ivan is at the age where he is looking for a part-time job, but he has an exam to take. 12-year-old Nasti is approaching adolescence and has been placed in a Loverboy situation at risk of online exploitation. Nina, the little girl, was at risk of being kidnapped.
Guidelines for the safety of children and adolescents
The document lists basic information that children need to know: name and address, a parent's phone number, emergency phone numbers in the country they are in, rules to follow when in a crowded area ( to look for a man in uniform, for example), rules regarding interaction with strangers (must not allow strangers to photograph them, must not allow themselves to be touched by strangers).
When they leave school, children must follow a set of safety rules: alert a teacher if they're going home with someone else, don't get into a stranger's car without telling their parents. The guide includes recommendations for children and young people to surf the internet safely. Parents should frequently ask children how many friends they have on social media and how many of them they have met in real life, which can help identify people who may be involved in human trafficking.
The eLiberare Association developed the guide for parents, educators, social workers and specialists who intervene in the community to educate children and adolescents, starting from the experience of working with refugees from Ukraine. However, the Guide can also be a valuable tool for parents and teachers in Romania.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.