IJM’s mission is to protect vulnerable people from violence. Right now, more than a million Ukrainians are fleeing their country to escape the invasion. This crisis has displaced an entire nation of people, making them vulnerable to exploitation.
For two years, our team has been in Romania addressing cross-border trafficking in Europe. As more and more refugees cross the border from Ukraine, the risk of trafficking increases drastically. In response, we are taking action to protect refugees from being exploited.
“The team at the border of Romania and Ukraine is seeing a significant increase in the number of people crossing. As the days have passed, we have seen that a majority of those arriving at the border are women and children. Fuel shortages have also meant that people are forced to walk great distances in winter weather, posing even greater risks to those fleeing. The team has identified a critical need for communication between refugees and their families, so our IJM team is partnering with companies to issue SIM cards and emergency response numbers in cases of trafficking,” said Shawn Kohl, IJM Director for Central and Eastern Europe.
IJM staff and partners are working tirelessly at the Ukrainian-Romanian border to provide support that will protect refugees from being further exploited by traffickers in the midst of their already desperate situation.
One team member at the border explained the urgent crisis like this, "Everyone has access to refugees coming through the border on foot - hundreds of people are coming in every hour - and while many local people are offering genuine help, we can’t be sure everyone is there to be kind. There may also be exploiters waiting to take advantage of tired and vulnerable women and children. We need to act now."*
In order to help protect as many vulnerable people as possible, we are collaborating closely with local NGOs to provide essential support, including:
- Developing a flyer to put in passports warning of risks of trafficking and helplines
- Creating an awareness campaign at the border: flyers/posters highlighting the trafficking risks, spotting the sign
- Working together with other agencies, training volunteers and charities
- Coordinating transport for refugees - from the border to partner shelters and organizing ongoing transport for getting to other countries, supporting safe passage
- Advising partner shelters on safeguarding and trauma-informed care - note, most shelters are providing a night of accommodation before the people continue their journey
- Taking basic supplies to partner shelters
- Providing churches and local charities who are stepping in to provide extra help with how to provide trauma-informed care and support
- Helping shelters to pay for heating in very cold conditions
Another IJM staff member at the frontlines shared this reflection, “It's worth every hour, every minute to know that you're helping people to be safe, to make safe journeys, to connect them to the right support and right charities to make sure that they're not victimized - they've already gone through enough.”
Every hour, and every minute counts when we work together to protect people from violence. We are so thankful for our Freedom Partners who provide sustainable monthly giving in order to protect the most vulnerable. Your support makes this type of urgent response possible.
Become a Freedom Partner today, so we can show up every day where it’s needed most.
*Since the time of original publication, the Romanian government has started acting to create safe zones and monitor access to refugees