Women and children fleeing Ukraine are being preyed upon by traffickers in neighboring countries, charity groups have warned.
Karolina Wierzbińska, a coordinator at Homo Faber, a human rights organization based in Lublin, Poland, told The Guardian that charity workers had witnessed refugees being targeted as they arrived in the country.
“We’ve registered the first cases of [suspected] pimps preying on Ukrainian women near refugee shelter points in Lublin; accosting them, sometimes aggressively, under the guise of offering transport, work or accommodation,” Wierzbińska told The Guardian.
Teams of predators were seen “pretending to offer rides or lodging to women distressed and exhausted from their journey,” Wierzbińska told the paper.
These teams were not only made of men, as women and couples had also been seen approaching female refugees at bus stations, she said.
Wierzbińska previously told The Guardian that there had also been instances of children going missing after being sent across the border alone by desperate parents.
Charity groups fear that women could be forced into slavery or prostitution, and children could be kidnapped and sold to criminal gangs.
Police in Wrocław, Poland, said they arrested a 49-year-old man suspected of raping a 19-year-old Ukrainian woman who he offered a place to stay, France24 reported.
Traffickers are believed to be taking advantage of the chaos
More than 3.7 million people are believed to have fled from Ukraine since Russia began its military invasion a month ago, according to the UN Refugee Agency.
The vast majority of these refugees, over 2 million, have fled to Poland.