"The Shadow Market" Focus on Ukraine

International trade in sex trafficking, also known as the “Shadow Market” is estimated to have a value over 150 billion dollars annually. This is from statistics collated before 2020. Today the figure with the increased conflicts in Ukraine and elsewhere will be much higher.

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:

“The war in Ukraine will create a worsening situation in terms of human trafficking.”

“It will have a vulnerable domino effect across Europe and refugees are at an increasingly high risk of exploitation.”

She added that there would be a spike in the number of refugees being forced into prostitution.

“It is certain that as time goes on, we will see a spike in numbers caused by refugees being exploited by traffickers and ending up potentially as sex workers, involved in criminal gangs or forced labor and domestic slavery. These gangs’ prey on the precariousness of refugees and the war is a business opportunity for them to make a profit and get people into Europe and ultimately the UK.”

Even before the recent attack on Ukraine, sex trafficking from this country was a significant problem.

According to the Borgen Project report:

“When Ukraine became a separate nation in 1991, the slave and human trafficking trade skyrocketed. The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has worsened the issue as it has caused displacement for millions of individuals. These individuals are far more susceptible to ending up in the trafficking trade because of the vulnerable state they are in due to the turmoil between the two countries, according to the Library of Congress Law. Traffickers often target the Roma community of Ukraine, a nomadic Indo-Aryan group of people, because they lack access to state social assistance programs. Low-skilled laborers, as well as children in state-run orphanages, are targets for traffickers as well. This is because they are poor and powerless.”
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

Cui Bono

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”.

Focus on Ukraine

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.

Read more at my substack site linked: "The Shadow Market"

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