Women Refugees From Ukraine Particularly At Risk

PeopleDiplomats ♦ Published: April 25, 2022; 23:00 ♦ (Vindobona)

The war in Ukraine is already in its ninth week. The Russian invasion caused many people to leave the country, especially women and children. These groups are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by criminal structures and others with malicious intentions.

Humanitarian Crisis: Women refugees are especially at risk. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons; Pakkin Leung, CC BY 4.0

The Russian war of aggression on Ukraine brought the country into chaos.

Large-scale fighting still encompassed the capital Kyiv until a few weeks ago.

Many people, especially women and children, were forced to leave the country.

For many refugees from Ukraine, there is an unclear future. Even if they have left the country, the future is not safe and holds many dangers. Especially women are at risk of violence and criminal exploitation.

As reported by Vindobona.org, the UN estimates that 5 million people fled Ukraine and another 7 million are internally displaced.

According to the UN, another 13 million are believed to be in the hardest-hit areas, where many are unable to move and it is difficult for them to reach safe areas.

UNHCR reports that more than five million refugees - 90% of whom are women and children - have fled Ukraine since Russian forces began invading on 24 February. As 7.1 million people are internally displaced within Ukraine, including women and children in need of medical care.

Women are hit particularly hard. Many have fled with their children and now have to find their way in countries unfamiliar to them, while their homeland is being destroyed by war.

This criminal exploitation ranges from human trafficking, sexual violence, exploitation, rape and abuse. All this is a threat faced by women and children fleeing Ukraine.

Many Ukrainians who are leaving Ukraine, particularly women and children, run the risk of becoming victims of human traffickers. Human traffickers target women and children because they are easier to exploit.

As reported by Vindobona.org, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), expressed their concerns on this issue and started to support efforts to combat trafficking in persons in Ukraine.

The OSCE is supporting efforts in member countries to prevent human trafficking and sexual exploitation of Ukrainian women fleeing Ukraine. Many Ukrainians have fled to their immediate neighboring countries. So the OSCE also held a conference in Moldova to discuss the impacts of the increasing refugee flow and the risks of trafficking in human beings.

“We need to prevent the current humanitarian crisis from turning into a human trafficking crisis. Establishing strong prevention measures and addressing vulnerabilities and needs of people seeking refuge, including access to sustainable employment, should be the priority right now,” emphasized Valiant Richey, OSCE Special Representative, and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings.

The European Parliament expressed its concerns on the issue of threats women and children fleeing Ukraine face too.

MEPs on the Gender Equality Committee argue that women fleeing Ukraine should be protected from violence and trafficking, and they should have access to essential health services.

MEPs emphasize that women and girls' specific needs should be addressed in refugee reception centers and that complaints mechanisms should be made immediately available to them in languages and formats accessible to them. MEPs stress the importance of providing women and girls with the opportunities to express their complaints in languages and formats that are accessible to them in refugee reception centers.

The EU and its member states need to identify and prosecute the trafficking networks profiting from the sexual exploitation of refugee women. Furthermore, the Committee urges member states to provide safe and coordinated transport between themselves.

As part of EU efforts to facilitate the integration of women refugees in host countries, MEPs recommend that they be granted access to the labor market as soon as possible and call for the creation of special programs and language courses, along with access to childcare.

The Women's Rights Committee calls on the EU to do all it can to address the needs of women who are still in Ukraine, including sending dignity health kits, including contraceptives and sexual reproductive health supplies, to Ukraine and to host countries.

As reported by Vindobona.org, due to the humanitarian crisis triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Austrian Ministry of the Interior (BMI) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) will launch a joint project to provide aid to war-displaced persons from Ukraine, especially women and children.

The plan is to jointly invest 400,000 euros by the end of August to help the suffering people. "The aid for people displaced by war from Ukraine is not only provided in Austria, but also in the immediately neighboring and particularly affected states. The focus is primarily on measures that support women and children," says Minister of the Interior Gerhard Karner about the joint project between the Ministry of the Interior and the IOM.

These measures include psychological care for traumatized people, access to information regarding onward travel and legal resettlement, legal counseling and the search for family members, parenting workshops and the creation of a supportive environment.