Europe

Europol operation targets online trafficking of Ukrainian refugees

Europol has launched a operation to tackle the online human trafficking of Ukrainian refugees, identifying suspicious posts on 42 online platforms across 14 countries in a single day.

Some users had posted fake job offers for Ukrainian women for “photo shoots” or instead promised accommodation and transport to refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.

“Investigators identified attempts to lure victims through offers of a ‘bright future’, which tricked them into sexual or labour exploitation,” the European Union’s law enforcement agency said in a statement.

“Many online marketplaces and websites appear to be taking significant steps to combat the misuse of their platforms for trafficking Ukrainian refugees,” Europol added.

Authorities identified suspicious posts written in Russian on a number of online forums.

The action which took place on 23 May examined 125 online platforms, including refugee support networks, social media websites, and dating forums.

Fifteen investigations have been launched, involving at least nine suspects and nine possible victims of human trafficking.

A total of 93 police officers from Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, and the United Kingdom took part in the Europol operation.

The agency had warned in March that Ukrainian refugees fleeing the invasion of their country were at risk of falling into human trafficking networks when they arrived in the EU.

EU officials in Brussels and various human rights groups also have warned about concerning reports of people who might try to exploit the millions fleeing the war in Ukraine, urging host countries to remain vigilant to possible online traffickers.

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