– The overwhelming majority of Ukrainians have a limited awareness of the dangers of human trafficking, a newly published survey suggests.
The opinion poll conducted by a market research company GfK Ukraine for IOM Ukraine was carried out among a sample of 1,000 respondents (representative of Ukrainian population 14 – 65 years old by administrative units, types of settlements and gender). It found that 70 per cent of the interviewees believed they were not personally at risk of being trafficked.
While the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians (92 per cent) said they were aware of trafficking for sexual exploitation and 82 per cent conscious of the fact that Ukrainians are being trapped into forced labour, it is their low economic status and previous successful migration experiences which determine the level of risk they are under. 9 per cent of the poll respondents said they were planning to go abroad in search of living. Almost 80 per cent of this group’s representatives would agree on illegal employment, 13 per cent are ready to work for any employer who would offer an attractive payment. Residents of the Central region are more inclined towards risky behaviour. According to GfK data, 36.6 per cent of Central Ukraine’s population have to save on food and clothes. Up to 16 per cent of the Central Ukraine’s residents have external migration experience.
“Although considerable numbers of Ukrainian migrants have experienced exploitation and abuse abroad, the poll suggests that many more are willing to engage in risky practices in their often desperate search for employment abroad,” says IOM Ukraine’s Chief of Mission Manfred Profazi. “This risk taking behaviour is often fuelled by migrants who have successfully escaped exploitation and have returned home with earnings.”
Another disturbing finding of the survey is that Ukrainians tend to accept mistreatment and even rights violations in order to keep their jobs. According to the poll, 24 per cent of all respondents said they were willing to accept penalties from their employer for making mistakes at work. Further 11 per cent would accept withholding of their salaries, a method regularly used by traffickers to coerce migrants into exploitation.
More than 110,000 Ukrainians are believed to have fallen prey to traffickers since 1991 and Ukraine remains one of the main countries of origin of exploited labour in Europe.
As part of efforts to reduce the vulnerability of migrants to trafficking and exploitation, IOM Ukraine recently launched a website (http://www.stoptrafficking.org/) aiming to raise general public awareness of the irregular migration dangers and foster further cooperation among all partners fighting traffickers who increasingly use the internet to lure their victims into situations of exploitation.
“This is why IOM and its partners are increasingly going online to combat human trafficking,” says IOM’s Profazi. “This means getting our awareness message across job searching sites and employment portals, which regularly contain false promises of easy work abroad.”
Since the start of its counter-trafficking activities in Ukraine in 1998, IOM Ukraine assisted almost 8,000 victims of trafficking, both women and men who suffered from sexual and labour exploitation mainly in the Russian Federation and Poland.