Help lines in Ukraine for victims of human trafficking


Twenty help line operators who will give assistance to human trafficking victims are being trained by the OSCE Mission in Kyiv. Among the millions of Ukrainian nationals who go abroad for work there are a fair number who become victims of the illegal labour market and of the international criminal world.

The aim of these help lines is both to help avoid the situation and to help those deceived.

On building sites in Kyiv, Donetsk and Odessa, you can hear Turkish being spoken. Construction companies are bringing workers to Ukraine, because the number of qualified construction people in Ukraine is falling with many going abroad – to European countries or Russia.  The latter hope to earn enough to support their family yet often become the victim of human traffickers.

Without wages, and with health destroyed

Maria Kunchuk from Zhytomyr who is coordinator of a centre for trafficking victims explains: “In one of the outlying areas of the Zhytomyr region they took a huge number of men to work in Russia. They took their documents away and there they had to work in incredibly hard conditions.  They basically lived in barracks which they built themselves out of boards, and slept on bunks. They weren’t given their wages, and the person who brought them there took their pay. … leaving them without earnings and with their health destroyed”.

You can hear similar stories in any part of Ukraine since thousands of Ukrainians end up in such traps in Russia or countries of the European Union.

Head of the International Organization for Migration’s Mission in Ukraine Jeffrey Labovits believes that one of the main reasons for such situations arising is the lack of information among potential migrant workers and weak coordination between Ukrainian and European anti-trafficking bodies.

Jeffrey Labovits: “We are cooperating with the Ukrainian government and nongovernmental organizations in order to prevent illegal labour migration from Ukraine and to make those seeking work abroad aware of the dangers they may face. We are coordinating our efforts with international organizations, like OSCE, UN, and European institutions. Only together can we stop the processes which have turned Ukraine into one of the biggest sources of illegal migration in Europe”.

So as not to fall victim to crooks and human traffickers

However in the absence of proper labour protection, decent wages in Ukraine, workers will continue seeking something better abroad. The OSCE initiative to begin these help lines in different Ukrainian cities has been welcomed by experts of the Euro-Centre and by representatives of Ukrainian civic organizations.

Maria Kunchuk says that in Zhytomyr the help line has not just helped those seeking work abroad. “For some people the biggest problem is domestic violence and they seek a way out. However most often they’re hoping to find a job abroad. It’s mainly young people who call in. they want to know how to find work – legally to safeguard themselves, while they’re still in Ukraine. We give them advice about what to pay attention to, so as not to end up in the hands of crooks or human traffickers.”

The OSCE Project Coordinator Olesya Oleshko says that at the present seminar in Kyiv, the future help line operators, all members of civic organizations, are learning about the experience of Russia, Israel, Bosnia, and Herzegovina. Their task will be not only to provide information or counselling, but to also prevent possible violations of human rights by employers.


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