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IJM’s mission is to protect vulnerable people from violence. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has led to the mass displacement of people, with our team on the ground observing the lack of resources, contacts, and travel plans that accompany the majority of those seeking refuge across Europe.
For two years, our team has been in Romania addressing cross-border trafficking in Europe. At present, the risk of trafficking increases drastically with more and more refugees crossing the border from Ukraine. Many of them have not only lost their homes but also their support system and access to protection measures. Shawn Kohl, Director for IJM in Central and Eastern Europe says:
“There is the potential for human trafficking. And we already know that it exists, we know that it exists in large numbers between Romania and the UK, between Poland and the UK and other western European countries. Trafficking already existed, and this current crisis just exacerbates the possibility that there will be human trafficking”
In response to the situation, we are taking action to protect refugees from exploitation and foster safe journeys. Our team has partnered with companies and local NGOs to provide essential support, issue SIM cards and facilitate communication.
“We’ve given out food and water, given them cash for taxi rides to airports because they didn’t have local currency or had no money at all, called relatives all over the world to let them know that their family has arrived in Bucharest safely, and basically tried to make them feel welcome and get them the resources they need. Every person is exhausted and emotionally drained. Many of them cry when you offer a smidgen of kindness”IJM Staff
We’ve also created awareness campaigns which highlight trafficking risks and proper reporting mechanisms. By 6 March, the IJM Romania team had worked with ANITP (Romania National Agency Against Human Trafficking) to distribute 8,500 flyers at the border with the signs and risks of trafficking and the available helplines.
As the conflict continues to escalate, so does the need for protection. The coming weeks are crucial with vulnerable and large populations now residing in refugee centres and seeking livelihood opportunities in destination countries. IJM continues to support its partners in Romania to provide for the current and emerging needs of refugees.
Every hour, and every minute counts when we work together to protect people from violence. And we are so thankful for all those that have helped sustain our efforts and provided safety and support to those vulnerable to trafficking in Eastern Europe and beyond.
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