Unemployment Makes Men in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova Vulnerable to Human Trafficking

Ukraine - An IOM study on trafficking in men from Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, shows that the risk of falling prey to traffickers does not depend on victim’s education and place of residence.

Over half of the surveyed male victims of trafficking assisted by IOM in Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus* have vocational education and 24 percent have higher education. Some 71 percent of them come from urban areas, according to the study, which was commissioned by IOM and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway.

From 2010 to 2015, the IOM Missions in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova provided assistance to 3,330 men who were trafficked for labour exploitation. Some 2,417 male victims were identified in Ukraine, 774 in Belarus and 139 in Moldova. In both Ukraine and Belarus, there have been more male than female victims of trafficking identified by IOM since 2012.

“The number of men who are falling prey to traffickers in the region may be significantly higher than reported, as many do not ask for assistance,” said Manfred Profazi, Chief of the IOM Mission in Ukraine. “The aim of the research was to better understand the situation with trafficking in men in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, in order to enhance their response to the issue.”

The study shows that the main push factor for men from all three countries to take risky job offers is widespread closure of the factories where a significant part of local population traditionally worked.

Another push factor is the significant difference in wages offered in the local job market, compared to those in the Russian Federation – a major destination country for trafficking victims from Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus which accounts for 80 percent of trafficking cases examined in the study.

More than half of male victims of trafficking surveyed by IOM were exploited in the construction sector. One-fifth of the respondents worked in agriculture – at greenhouses and seasonal vegetable and fruit picking (Ukraine and Belarus), as well as shepherding (Moldova).

The majority of the respondents (78 percent) indicated that they were exploited only once, 14 percent twice and 8 percent three times. One out of five respondents confirmed their readiness to leave home again if promised employment, however in a different country.

The main source of information about job offers that later ended in exploitation were relatives, friends, and acquaintances of victims. “When men accept doubtful job offers from friends and acquaintances, they are less diligent about checking up on the employers and the terms and conditions,” said Nataliia Gusak, Head of School of Social Work at the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy, the author of the study. 

The results of the study confirm the need for large-scale prevention campaigns, targeting men as an at-risk group, and raising awareness of their rights, the implications of crossing a border, requirements for working in countries of destination, and safety measures that can be taken before departure to avoid falling into the human trafficking trap.

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*In total 153 men victims of trafficking for labour exploitation, assisted by the IOM Missions in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova from 2010 to 2015, were interviewed in 2016.

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