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S&Ds: Ukrainian women fleeing the war must not fall into the hands of traffickers


05 May 2022


Global Europe

Rape and sexual violence are being used as a ‘weapon of war’ by the Russian aggressor. Hundreds of Ukrainian women have been raped by Russian soldiers. Unfortunately, the risks for women of becoming the victims of violence does not end once they cross the border to seek refuge in the EU. Of the 5 million refugees, over 90% are women and children. Human trafficking is one of the greatest risks for them – even before the war, Ukrainians were the fifth most common victims of human trafficking to the EU.

Under the leadership of the Socialists and Democrats, the European Parliament will later today adopt a resolution drafted by S&D MEP Robert Biedroń urging stronger EU efforts to support Ukrainian women, both in the country and fleeing the war. They must be protected from sexual exploitation and no woman should be forced to continue a pregnancy that resulted from rape.

Ahead of the vote, Robert Biedroń MEP, the chair of the European Parliament’s women’s rights and gender equality committee, said in the plenary debate:

“Despite the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people, Russia’s barbaric war continues. And as usual in such conflicts, women and girls pay a very high price. Every day, independent media sources alert us that mass rapes, sexual and gender-based violence, torture and genocide are being used as a ‘weapon of war’. We will not rest until the perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice.

“We must ensure that not a single person seeking refuge in the EU falls into the hands of sex traffickers. European citizens have reacted to the incoming refugees with unprecedented solidarity and for the first time the EU triggered the Temporary Protection Directive. However, more must be done. Member states must improve the registration of all refugees and volunteers and ensure refugees can travel safely.

“It is also crucial that Ukrainian women, both within and outside Ukraine, continue to have access to essential sexual health services. The EU should provide financial support for so-called ‘dignity kits’ to be sent to Ukraine, including contraceptives and sanitary products, in humanitarian packages and convoys through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. It is unacceptable that, for instance, women seeking refuge in my country, Poland – the EU country with the highest proportion of refugees – are forced to continue pregnancies that are the result of brutal rapes.”

Note to editors:

The resolution’s demands include:

  •  an EU anti-trafficking plan, including an EU-wide helpline number for refugee victims or persons at risk of human trafficking
  •  safe and coordinated transportation for refugees between member states
  •  better registration of refugees and people providing help
  •  awareness campaigns in refugee reception centres and transit points used by traffickers
  •  identification and prosecution of trafficking networks exploiting refugee women and girls
  •  more direct EU funds for NGOs helping refugees, including the ones providing access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including abortion
  •  ‘dignity kits’, including contraceptives and sanitary products, to be sent to Ukraine in humanitarian packages and convoys through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism
  •  collection of the testimonies of victims and documentation of all the cases of sexual violence to bring the perpetrators to justice