As millions of Ukrainians, mostly women and children, flee westward some are sounding the alarm that criminal organisations are looking to exploit refugees and traffic them into prostitution, the drugs trade, and possibly worse.

Shirin Tinnesand, refugee and migration coordinator at the NGO Wadi said that Ukrainian refugees were at risk of being preyed upon by criminals saying, “they are at risk of being exposed to human trafficking, prostitution, organ donation. Only imagination sets the limits.”

According to Tinnesand, video footage seen by her organisation from the main train station in Krakow, Poland appears to show a man approaching Ukrainian women and offering them free food and accommodation for a year if they board a “special bus” to Germany, broadcaster SVT reports.

“We can’t say that he’s a trafficker, but that’s often how they work, that they come to collection areas and strategically seek out single women, young women,” Tinnesand said and noted that many wear the costume of humanitarian workers to deceive and operate undetected.

“It is a fact that people smugglers pretend to be volunteers who go to places where it is chaotic and where there is no clear organization and the more people who come, the more inconspicuous it becomes and with it easier for smugglers and criminal organizations to operate,” Tinnesand said.

In Germany, there have been reports of similar incidents in which men approach women and children and offer them cash to “stay” with them, with one Danish volunteer claiming that there have been several reports on the encrypted messaging app Telegram of traffickers preying on women and children travelling by themselves.

Sex trafficking operations in Europe are not a new phenomenon and has affected many asylum seekers, some of which have been brought to Europe by people trafficking network, often without being told they would become prostitutes.

In Italy, a 2017 report claimed that within a period of just three years, sex trafficking of migrants to Italy increased by 600 per cent, with most of the victims coming from Nigeria, and some as young as 13.

Earlier this year, Spanish authorities broke up a major sex trafficking ring involving Chinese women as victims, arresting 63 people operating the network in two Spanish cities.

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