Ukraine: Armed conflict and displacement heightens risks of all forms of sexual violence including trafficking in persons, say UN experts

GENEVA/NEW YORK The UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Siobhán Mullally, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Reem Alsalem, and the UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, today expressed serious concerns at the heightened risks of sexual violence, especially trafficking in persons, impacting significantly women and children fleeing the conflict in Ukraine and forcibly displaced. They issue the following statement:

“With more than 2 million people, mostly women and children already displaced from Ukraine, it is critical to ensure that effective prevention and protection systems are in place in transit and destination countries and at all border crossings. Expanding and ensuring access to international protection, resettlement, humanitarian visas and family reunification, will reduce the risks of trafficking. The chaos and trauma resulting from the war, is increasing vulnerability to various forms of sexual violence including trafficking and exploitation.

The application of the Temporary Protective Directive by the European Union is welcome. We must ensure that it is implemented effectively, without discrimination, and that the protection afforded is available in practice to all those in need. We call on other States to urgently provide expanded access to international protection and safe migration routes to those displaced from war in Ukraine and to their families.

We are very concerned at the heightened vulnerability of children separated from families and caregivers. Urgent action is required to ensure effective international cooperation to identify and trace missing children, recognising that they may be victims of trafficking or at risk of trafficking and sexual violence.

Resourcing of child protection systems, timely appointment of guardians for unaccompanied and separated children, access to safe accommodation, assistance and protection of displaced and refugee children, taking account their specific needs and best interests, is essential to prevent trafficking of children for all purposes of exploitation.

To reduce risks of trafficking, effective assistance and protection must be provided to refugees and internally displaced persons, without discrimination, in particular on grounds of race, gender, disability or other status, recognising that discrimination and racism may increase vulnerability to trafficking. Recalling Security Council Resolution 2475 (2019), all responses to risks of trafficking in persons, must be disability inclusive, and ensure the rights of persons with disabilities, including in provision of information, access to safe and accessible accommodation, transportation and in all assistance and protection measures. For persons internally displaced, it is critical that access to humanitarian assistance and protection is ensured.

Recalling Security Council Resolution 2388 (2017), States must ensure that survivors of trafficking are provided with appropriate care, assistance and services for their physical, psychological and social recovery, in full respect of their human rights and in a manner that takes full account of the extreme trauma they have suffered and the risk of further victimization and stigmatization. Access to sexual and reproductive health care and psychosocial support for survivors of trafficking, must be ensured, without discrimination. Non-governmental organisations and service providers assisting trafficked persons, and persons at risk of trafficking, must be supported and resourced to carry out their work. We also recall Security Council resolution 2331 (2016) on the importance to prevent trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation and violence for the maintenance of international peace and security, and Security Council resolution 2467 (2019), on the need to adopt a survivor-centred approach in the prevention and response to all forms of conflict-related sexual violence.

Urgent action is now required to ensure that all those engaged in humanitarian assistance and civilian protection are aware of risks of trafficking, and are taking effective prevention and protection measures, in particular ensuring the rights and best interests of all children.”

Source: UN Human Rights Council

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