Almost a year into the Ukraine War a roundtable discussing how to mitigate the risks of getting human trafficked has been held at Parliament.
On February 21st, as a tribute of Ukraine being invaded for almost a year, a roundtable on mitigating the risks of human trafficking amongst Ukrainian refugees in Scotland took place in Committee room number two at the Scottish Parliament.
The roundtable featured five guest speakers; Joy Gillespie, CEO of Survivors of Human Trafficking Scotland, Bronagh Andrews from Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance, Graham O’ Neill, Policy Manager at Scottish Refugee Council, Anushya Kulupana, Senior Associate at JustRight and Dr. Paul Rigby from University of Stirling. As well as Gari Donn UN House of Scotland’s Executive Director and MSP Rhoda Grant.
It must be noted that there are several policies in place to offer support to Ukrainian refugees in making their way into Scotland; The Homes for Ukraine Initiative, The Ukraine Family Scheme Visa, The Ukraine Extension Scheme and the Super Sponsorship Scheme.
The discussion opened with a short speech from Donn and Grant.
“The effects (of human trafficking) are profound and enduring. We find it very difficult to recover people. There must be a shift from only offering accommodation to protection.” Gillespie pointed out. Concerns have been raised as there are currently 14,000 Ukrainians who hold a visa to come into Scotland yet to arrive. The records show that 23,000 people who have fled Ukraine have made it to Scotland. “There are huge accommodation issues, there is not enough housing for everyone. But the UK immigration legislation is the biggest structural problem. We are currently working on requesting a reformation in the trafficking legislation. We can’t leave people in the limbo. Nationalities and borders act need a new system and this is the time to do so.” Said O’Neill.
There is a lack of knowledge on Human Trafficking and insecure accommodation puts the refugees in a position of extreme vulnerability. Some of the issues lay in extreme poverty, lack of childcare and jobs. Speakers pointed out this can only be battled by educating refugees on how to satisfy their needs while still respecting their rights. In addition to being at a high risk of being trafficked, women and children are also at high risk of experiencing sexual violence.
Kateryna Buchko, researcher at University of Stirling, is a Ukrainian refugee herself. She offered insight on one of the many reasons Ukrainians are at high risk of being trafficked. “We (Ukrainians) don’t understand human rights as the rest of Europe. ‘Human rights’ are often discussed in Ukraine in terms of rights with corresponding duties–not necessarily through the framework of ‘basic human rights’. The second vulnerability is that Ukrainians have to build trust in institutions.”
The aim of the roundtable was to further understand the issues that lead to human trafficking. It concluded with the UNHS producing a report on the discussions with guidelines on how to move forward. “We have the opportunity to start the discussion early. However, knowledge and understanding must be built before creating a response. There is urgency in speaking about prevention, otherwise we will be talking about this same issue in 2-3 years.” Dr. Paul Rigby University of Stirling.
Feature image credit: Paula León