The Shadow Market-focus on Ukraine
It is difficult to know the precise numbers of people trafficked or the dollar equivalent of the money made on human trafficking since it is both a national and international criminal enterprise.
Criminal networks involved in human trafficking are diverse. There are well-organized, hierarchical structures that focus on transnational “Trafficking in Human Beings” (THB) for sexual exploitation. Large international groups are often involved in other forms of organized crime, such as drug trafficking or money laundering. THB for labor exploitation is typically carried out by smaller groups consisting of a few key figures, such as a recruiter, a driver, and a fraudulent employer, or, in case of international trafficking, relying on cooperation between criminal groups in the country of origin and destination and local law enforcement personnel.
Forced labor recruiters may offer fake employment contracts to 40-50 persons at a time, transporting victims to destinations such as construction sites, or agricultural production complexes.
Some forms of exploitation, such as child porn or online sexual exploitation, can be carried out by individuals as well as organized criminal groups.
During military conflicts, natural disasters, and in areas of abject poverty, vulture like networks and individuals circle, looking for prey. By prohibiting all males between 16 through 60 from leaving Ukraine and encouraging all children and women to evacuate by themselves to neighboring countries; the most vulnerable population of Ukraine is a prime target for traffickers and war profiteers.
This is a consequence of conflict few speak or write about. (Concern grows over traffickers targeting Ukrainian refugees)
Lauren Agnew, a human trafficking policy expert for the charity CARE, reported:
She added that there would be a spike in the number of refugees being forced into prostitution.
Even before the recent attack on Ukraine, sex trafficking from this country was a significant problem.
Before the Ukraine crisis, child trafficking in Eastern Europe (particularly in Ukraine) was big, everyone just turned a blind eye to it, but now it’s going to skyrocket & be a massive problem, a problem the authorities will NOT handle. #Ukraine #humantrafficking #childexploitation pic.twitter.com/g2aHAU5qEP— Adam Whittington (@AdamWhitto23) March 13, 2022
Human trafficking includes forced labor, domestic servitude, organ trafficking, debt bondage, and/or sex trafficking and forced prostitution of both genders and all ages. Human beings are the most profitable “product” for predators. They can be sold repeatedly, generating more profit than materials such as weapons or drugs, which can only be sold once.
In countries that are known to be corrupt with little or no adherence to the rule of law, such as Ukraine, the chances of accountability and punishment for criminal networks or individuals who traffic the vulnerable, are minimal. Therefore, it is worth the risk for “easy profit under the table”.
The US Department of State rates Ukraine as a “Tier 2” in their most recent 2021 “Trafficking in Persons Report”. This means Ukraine consistently lacks minimum standards for making efforts to eliminate trafficking.
Ukrainians are trafficked to Middle East-including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the UAE. They are trafficked to Russia, Belarus, Turkey, the Czech Republic, the UK, the USA, Canada, Central, and South America. As well as Asia-including China, Thailand, Australia, and Malaysia. If caught in these countries, they-become victims facing punishment, fines, and imprisonment.
Here is just one example:
Kateryna Levchenko from La Strada International-Ukraine made the following comment about the criminal networks’ interests in creating and maintaining an environment favorable to trafficking in women:
The Netherlands and Germany have legalized prostitution for their citizens. These are countries with high demand for Eastern European women. Certain states in the USA such as Nevada and California have lax laws regarding prostitution. Once they have been trafficked to these countries it is nearly impossible to free them.
Thousands of Ukrainian women have been trafficked into strip clubs and massage parlors in the USA.
Recently there have been “volunteers” going to “fight for Ukraine”. These men come from a number of different countries with varying degrees of training and experience. Some come because they are unscrupulous and intend to exploit women and children suffering from war and poverty.
Some NGOs are in reality, hastily organized groups that are affiliated with criminal networks and gangs. They watch and prey upon refugees migrating out of Ukraine. They pose as “good Samaritans” offering shelter, food, and transport. In reality they are another incarnation of slave traders.
The entire world knows the men from Ukraine will not be accompanying their family members since they are prohibited from leaving Ukraine. Now, millions of Ukrainian women and children will be seen as the “spoils of war”. How many will be disappeared once they flee the conflict areas of their homeland?
There are some wounds of war that never heal.
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