War, Displacement, and Human Trafficking and Exploitation: Findings from an evidence-gathering Roundtable in Response to the War in Ukraine
Millions of people have been displaced following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Despite increasing concerns about the associated risks of human trafficking and exploitation, evidence remains sparse. To address this gap, and explore relevant experiences and perspectives, we co-convened an international online roundtable together with the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. The roundtable addressed emergent issues, key concerns and recommendations, with a particular focus on the UK’s response to people fleeing Ukraine. Over one hundred people from various professional backgrounds including healthcare, lawyers, charities, law enforcement, policy makers and academics participated. Qualitative thematic analysis identified five major themes: 1) conflict can create and compound opportunities for trafficking and exploitation; 2) the UK’s visa-based response to Ukrainian refugees lacks clarity, resourcing and accountability; 3) information gaps and overloads, both for people seeking sanctuary and those supporting them, can exacerbate risks of trafficking and exploitation; 4) insecurity, fear and the broader political climate around immigration and asylum create challenging conditions to respond; and 5) longer-term strategic planning around displaced Ukrainians is vital but appears lacking. Here, we discuss the key findings from the roundtable, situating them within the broader literature and reflecting critically on their implications for evidence-gathering, research, policy and practice.
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