Worrying increase in labour bondage
In the Lviv oblast a gang of modern “slave-owners” was uncovered. The police say that such crimes are rare in the region, however specialists in the area say that labour bondage is becoming widespread in Ukraine.
In Boryslav in broad daylight three young men from the city were literally abducted and taken to a private home. The abductors thought up this way of getting people to do work around the house and also sell honey for them. The employees were held in shocking conditions, intimidated, subjected to physical force and chained. The victims finally managed to escape and went to the police. Ulyana Flyshko from the Lviv Regional Police says that the case is not typical for the region. The fact that the people were abducted on the street is shocking. A young man was held by force for three months; others, including a woman, for several weeks. She says that these were people with an average income. Those arrested face up to 5 years imprisonment if convicted.
According to Olena Kalbus from the West-Ukrainian Women’s Prospects Centre, people who are going abroad to earn money normally take precautions, seek out relatives and people they know, meaning that they’re less likely to end up in somebody’s clutches. However in Ukraine, young people can lose vigilance and fall victim to people exploiting them.
Whereas 8 years ago, the most common form of human trafficking was sexual exploitation, now it’s labour bondage. People are normally tricked through promises of good wages, with the largest number of victims being young people needing to earn some extra money. .
Most reports of people forced into labour come from agricultural districts in the south of the country, though their have been cases in western regions. In Volyn a group of Roma forcibly held around 10 people making them search for things at the rubbish dump so that they could sell them. Olena Kalbus says that the exploiters used this means of getting people to work for them for 15 years.
She adds that the charges are often reduced during the court proceedings with few convicted of human trafficking.
Ruth Krchmar from the International Migration Organization agrees that the number of cases of forced labour in Ukraine is increasing. She says that this is true of both internal exploitation and forced labour abroad. Such cases are typical in agriculture and production where there is a shortage of cheap labour, and the work – especially in agriculture – is hard. The financial crisis also fuelled the situation making it harder to earn money abroad.
She says that for every 100 calls to their help line, some 60 relate to exploitation within Ukraine. IOM officials point out that people have become more aware of the situation, less frightened of turning to civic organizations and the police for help. This gives an idea of the scale of the problem.