Farm Slaves Rescued in Ukraine

Vulnerable resident of Odesa looking at IOM counter-trafficking installation. File Photo: IOM 

Kyiv – On EU Anti-Trafficking Day, 18 October, the Ministry of Social Policy and the National Police of Ukraine revealed the details of a shocking case of mass trafficking during a press conference in the capital Kyiv. The International Organization for Migration is helping the Government to provide immediate assistance to the victims. 

Over 80 jobless Ukrainians from the Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk regions were lured to work at a farm by promises of free accommodation and meals, as well as salaries of USD 170 per month (well below the average salary in Ukraine which is equal to USD 400).  

“Two suspects have been apprehended – a man and a woman who were recruiting victims and supervising their work. We are working to prosecute the rest of the criminal group,” said Artem Kryschenko, the Head of Counter-Trafficking Department of the National Police of Ukraine at the press conference. According to him, the suspects face up to 12 years in jail.  

“The Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine as the National Counter-Trafficking Coordinator is working to provide the victims with official status, assess their needs and give them psychosocial, medical and financial assistance in partnership with civil society and international organizations,” said Serhii Nizhynskyi, Deputy Minister of Social Policy of Ukraine. 

This week IOM provided food, hygiene items and clothing to 22 people among the case victims – those who were recruited in Dnipropetrovsk Region and returned to their homes with help of the authorities. 

“Forced labour has been the prevailing human trafficking trend in Ukraine, making up over 90 per cent of the victims we assist,” said Anh Nguyen, Acting Chief of Mission at IOM Ukraine. 

From January to June 2019, the IOM Mission in Ukraine identified and assisted 600 victims of trafficking. Almost 70 per cent of them were men. The total number of trafficking survivors assisted by IOM since the start of its reintegration activities in Ukraine 19 years ago is close to 16,000. IOM has been also supporting the Ukrainian State and non-governmental organizations in building their capacity to raise public awareness, assist the victims and prosecute the criminals. 

“The Government and civil society of Ukraine have made a number of steps towards the establishment of a viable national counter-trafficking response. At the same time, with Ukrainians being susceptible to many risks, IOM stands ready to further support efforts to combat modern-day slavery,” said Nguyen.  

Oksana* lived in a village in the south of Ukraine with no work available in the district. She needed money for surgery on her arm, so when a friend told her about a job opportunity with an agricultural enterprise in the Odesa region, she decided to take it despite her poor health condition. Oksana had to work in the field and at a canning plant.  

The working day started at 7 a.m. and lasted until late evening. Living conditions were extremely poor. The food provided by the employer was insufficient and of a low quality, so Oksana started having more health problems. 

For six months Oksana received no salary – the woman who was supervising the workers said everything they earned was spent on their food. The workers were under guard 24/7, and those who tried to escape from the fields were caught and beaten.  

*Name changed to protect privacy 

National Police video showing the awful conditions in which trafficking victims were kept: 

For more information, please contact Varvara Zhluktenko at IOM Ukraine, Tel: +38 044 568 50 15, +38 067 447 97 92, Email: