Ukrainian and Belarusian men and boys also victims of human trafficking


More attention must be paid to the trafficking of men and boys, says IOM’s latest Migration Research Series report, which seeks to shed new light on this growing global phenomenon.

The report, which focuses on the trafficking of males from Belarus and Ukraine, reveals that in both countries, male victims accounted respectively for 28.3 per cent and 17.6 per cent of all victims assisted by IOM and its partners between 2004 and 2006.

The research, conducted by Rebecca Surtees of the NEXUS Institute, is based on interviews with 685 trafficked males. It shows that adult men were overwhelmingly trafficked for forced labour, mostly in the construction sector in Russia. A minority, especially boys, were trafficked for begging, petty theft or sexual exploitation in Russia. Other destinations include South-Eastern Europe, the European Union, the United States, Turkey, Central Asia, North Asia and the Middle East.

Asked why they had decided to migrate in the first place, most cited poor economic prospects at home and the need to provide for families and children left behind.

According to the report, a vast majority of male victims were recruited with bogus promises of work, generally through personal contacts but also through advertisements published in newspapers, on television, billboards and the Internet. In many cases, victims believed they had signed legally binding contracts with reliable companies, employment agencies and recruiters.

Both Ukrainian and Belarusian men faced exploitative, often traumatic working and living conditions in destination countries, which severely affected their physical and mental well-being.

Regardless of destination country or form of work, trafficked men and boys worked six to seven days a week, with workdays of twelve hours or more. Most trafficked men reported severely substandard, cramped and unhygienic living conditions with limited access to poor quality food.

A combination of abuse or threat of abuse, non-payments, debts and restricted freedom of movement kept many men in situations of exploitation.

Ukrainian victims trafficked to Russia into the construction industry reported extensive and consistent abuse while trafficked. One former victim reports: "We asked about the work conditions and the salary and were told to stay silent because we had no rights. We were not allowed to leave. If we disobeyed orders, we were given fines or were beaten…We were guarded by armed men and at night dogs were released. One day I was beaten on the feet and kicked in the face."

In Russia, barracks where a number of trafficked men were living were allegedly set alight by an employer as a collective punishment, resulting in the death of a number of workers. A survivor recalls how desperate migrants tried to escape the blaze but found themselves locked in. Those who survived were given funds to return home by their traffickers. But they were never paid for their work or compensated for the physical and psychological torment they were forced to endure.

The report notes that many exploited men may not see themselves as victims of trafficking as exploitation is often wrongly perceived as a normative aspect of labour migration. Others may feel that their own participation in the recruitment process disqualifies them as trafficked victims.

It recommends that counter-trafficking programmes and policies take into account the gender dimension of trafficking so as to provide comprehensive responses to the protection and assistance needs of male victims of trafficking, including in the post trafficking phase.

The report is funded by the US Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in persons and can be downloaded at

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