Restoring the lives of human trafficking survivors in Ukraine

The promise of a high paying job in another country can lure people into the trap of modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

Ukrainian brothers Ruslan and Ivan received support from a Canadian international development project helped them reintegrate into Ukrainian society. They have traded the walls of forced confinement for their own car wash business to provide for their families.

Young Ukrainian brothers Ivan and Ruslan took a contract abroad hoping to be able to send money home to their families. Many men in the Ukraine are forced to look for work outside their country to put food on the table.

The brothers left their small western Ukrainian town in June of 2013 for what they thought was a profitable construction job in Russia.

The realities of forced work

The circumstances on the ground were very different. As soon as Ivan and Ruslan arrived their identification and other documents were confiscated. They found themselves trapped in a fenced construction site patrolled by guards.

The men report they were threatened, humiliated and physically abused as they worked. Without documents, escape wasn’t an option.

When the construction work was finished, the workers were sent back to the Ukraine with almost no money. Ivan and Ruslan say that there was very little money left after they were charged for food and accommodation.

Support for victims

As with many victims upon their return to the Ukraine, Ivan and Ruslan felt desperate.

Then their luck changed. They turned to the local employment centre where they heard about a program offering assistance to victims of human trafficking.

Rebuilding back home with Canada’s support

The project supported by Canada, Combatting Trafficking of Children and Youth in Ukraine helped the brothers receive medical and psychological support. Restoring the self confidence and self-esteem of workers who have experienced slavery is an important step in reducing further trauma and family crises.

This project was established to provide support for human trafficking victims in Ukraine, a situation that has been on the rise since the early 1990s.

Young people in Ukraine are exploited in vast numbers

In 2014, the International Organization for Migration mission in Ukraine identified and assisted almost one thousand victims of trafficking. These victims had suffered forced labour and sexual exploitation in 13 different countries, including Ukraine. Most of the victims were younger than 35 years old.

But these victims only account for a small fraction of the young people affected. Many more have been exploited and forced into labour, begging, commercial sex or production of child pornography.

Not enough children and young people have access to the social and psychological rehabilitation they need. This type of assistance should be guaranteed to them by the Law on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings.

Canada is committed to supporting Ukraine’s efforts to fight modern day slavery

The Trafficking of Children and Youth in Ukraine project helps young victims to seek protection, health care and justice.

Project activities include:

  • improving the skills of government workers who provide victim assistance
  • raising public awareness about the consequences of human trafficking
  • creating job opportunities
  • providing rehabilitation and reintegration assistance

As for Ivan and Ruslan, Canada’s support helped to get them back on their feet.

Building a business and a better life

Together they developed a business plan for a car wash service and won a grant to start their business. Their services are in demand and they are planning to expand and offer interior car cleaning as well.

Ukraine depends on the skills of its citizens of all ages to rebuild lives. Ivan and Ruslan are a good example of how supporting the human rights of Ukrainians will help citizens engage as positive members of society.

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