Protection against human traffickking in Ukraine (TIP 2023)

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The government demonstrated mixed efforts in victim protection; although the government identified fewer victims, it allocated more funding to protection efforts, and conducted screenings for potential victims among IDPs and children.  Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine reduced the government’s capacity to provide services to trafficking victims, as resources were diverted to the humanitarian response.  In 2022, authorities reported there were 47 officially identified victims – a status that granted victims access to government services upon approval of an application – a decrease compared with 64 officially identified victims in 2021.  The government reported police identified 131 potential victims and referred them to services in 2022 compared to 155 in 2021.  Observers reported Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine impeded the processing time for granting official victim status due to significant strains on resources and the displacement of staff.  While some observers said anti-trafficking resources were diverted to the humanitarian response, others assessed the overall increase in humanitarian service provision, including shelters and aid to people in desperate need, may have reduced the risks of human trafficking, as coordination among service providers increased.  The government reported screening undocumented foreign migrants for indicators of trafficking; however, observers noted authorities did not consistently do so.  Authorities, in cooperation with international organizations, visited facilities for internally displaced persons and children’s care facilities, to screen for potential trafficking victims, and NPU disseminated written instructions to local authorities to improve screening for victims.  Russia’s occupation prevented Ukrainian authorities and NGOs and international organizations from identifying or providing protection services to victims in Russia-occupied territory.

The government provided services, including medical, psychological, and legal assistance and temporary shelter to victims granted official victim status.  The government approved 81 percent (47 of 58) of applications for official victim status in 2022, an increase compared with 67 percent (64 of 96) of applications in 2021.  The National Social Service (NSS), formed in 2020, assumed the role of granting official victim status to potential victims in May 2021 and began devolving the responsibility of granting official victim status to local communities through an ongoing decentralization reform process.  In 2022, the government took steps to improve the victim designation process by recommending local authorities maintain statistics with victims’ demographic information.  Officials noted a decreased number of victim applications in 2022, which they attributed to several factors amid the disruption of the war, including some victims not being able to report their exploitation, some who may not have recognized they were exploited, or Ukrainian refugees exploited abroad who may not have reported their exploitation to authorities upon their return to Ukraine.  Civil society previously reported the government rejected a high percentage of victim applications due to strict internal guidelines for classifying cases as trafficking crimes, police pursuing indictments under statutes other than the trafficking law, and the government demanding additional evidence to confirm victim status, contrary to Ukrainian law, including confirmation that the victim was recognized as such in court proceedings or demanding evidence to show movement across a border.  Victims not requiring specialized services may have chosen not to apply for official victim status, and NGOs reported the emphasis on documents requiring the divulging of sensitive information likely deterred some applicants from applying.  The government did not report granting official victim status to any individuals incarcerated abroad in 2022, compared with one in 2021.  In the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine, authorities informed victims of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) of their right to apply for official victim status; however, experts expressed concern that the government conflated CRSV with sex trafficking, instead of seeing these as distinct crimes.

During the previous year, newly devolved local administrative structures were not yet officially part of the NRM, resulting in some confusion over responsibilities.  In 2022, civil society reported continued, systemic shortcomings in the functioning of the NRM in part due to war-related capacity limitations and high personnel turnover.  Some newly established communities, especially smaller ones, lacked sufficient personnel, infrastructure, or financial resources to effectively provide services to trafficking victims.  Observers noted some local officials responsible for identifying and screening victims were not trained on trafficking.  The government continued to rely on international organizations and NGOs, with international donor funding, to identify victims and provide most victim protection and assistance.  While not all anti-trafficking organizations in Ukraine reported the number of victims they served, one international organization in Ukraine assisted 361 victims in 2022, compared with 1,010 victims in 2021.  In the first quarter of 2023, an international organization reported the majority (98 percent) of victims they identified were labor trafficking victims; most of those exploited after the full-scale invasion were exploited abroad.  NGOs did not report identifying any victims in eastern Ukraine.

The government allocated 2.19 million hryvnia ($59,820) to the national budget for anti-trafficking measures in 2022, an increase from 2.03 million hryvnia ($55,550) in 2021; however, the government did not allocate funding for local budgets for the second consecutive year.  Ukraine’s trafficking law entitled victims with official victim status to accommodation at a government shelter, psychological assistance, medical services, employment counseling, and vocational training, regardless of whether a victim cooperated with law enforcement or if a criminal case proceeded.  Adult victims could also stay at government-run centers for psycho-social assistance for up to 90 days, with the option to extend, and receive psychological and medical support, lodging, food, and legal and social assistance.  In 2022, the government increased the one-time financial payment amount to trafficking victims from 7,443 hryvnia ($203) to 7,888 hryvnia ($216).  Authorities could accommodate child victims in centers for socio-psychological support of children for up to nine months and administer social, medical, psychological, education, legal, and other types of assistance.  Authorities identified three child trafficking victims in 2022; each received financial, medical, and psychosocial support.

In December 2022, the government reported vulnerable populations, including trafficking victims, could access government-funded services through a total of 44 shelters, 39 day centers, 68 consultative services, and 516 mobile brigades.  The shelters served 39 trafficking victims and provided legal assistance, accommodation, medical aid, or psycho-social support.  Separately, in July 2022, the government reported there were 853 village and city centers providing general social services trafficking victims could access; 369 social service centers, which assist older adults, are also available to trafficking victims and provide temporary shelter; 84 social support institutions for families, children, and youth; 20 centers for social and psychological assistance, which could also provide temporary shelter for trafficking victims; 72 centers for social and psychological rehabilitation for children; 17 centers of social support for children and families; and four general children’s shelters.  In February 2022, the government amended the regulations for the centers for social and psychological assistance to allow the centers to accommodate families with children and to refer individuals to medical care.  Observers reported government assistance remained insufficient to meet victims’ needs, and victims continued to rely on NGOs for assistance.  Foreign victims were entitled to the same benefits as Ukrainian citizens and had additional access to interpretation services, temporary legal stay, and voluntary repatriation.  Although legally entitled to the same benefits, observers noted some foreign nationals and members of underserved communities faced barriers to accessing services.  Authorities could grant permanent residency to foreign victims in danger of retribution should they return to their country of origin.  Foreign victims were able to obtain an immigration permit after residing continuously in Ukraine for three years.

The government, often in partnership with international organizations, provided training for officials on victim identification and assistance.  The Witness Protection Law provided protections for victims, but observers noted courts rarely used protection measures.  Closed hearings and remote procedures for questioning and identification were the most frequently used witness and victim protection mechanisms.  The government reported witness protection measures were neither requested nor provided in 2022.  Video testimony systems that ensured the complete separation of victims or witnesses from the accused existed in 14 courts in various regions.  In the previous reporting period, the government, with the assistance of an international organization, established several regional specialized centers for child victims or witnesses; at these centers, specialized staff interviewed children in a trauma-informed manner and children received psycho-social, legal, and medical care, as needed.  During the current reporting period, the Office of the Prosecutor General (OPG) assigned a specialized unit to assist all children in the judicial process.  The government reported courts ordered restitution for 14 victims amounting to 75,000 hryvnia ($2,050).

from 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report – U.S. Department of State

2023 Trafficking in Persons Report – United States Department of State

Prevention of human trafficking in Ukraine (TIP 2023)

Prosecution of human trafficking in Ukraine (TIP 2023)