At the invitation of the Swedish Government, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna took part online in a high-level conference on preventing and combating human trafficking organised under the Swedish Presidency of the EU Council.
During a panel discussion with the participation of Swedish Minister for Justice Gunnar Strömmer, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, and Spanish Minister for Justice Pilar Llop Cuenca, the participants focused on the protection of displaced women and girls staying in the EU Member States.
Olha Stefanishyna stressed that as part of ongoing cooperation with the European Union, Ukraine and its partners had managed to build a powerful network of institutions to address the challenges posed by the large-scale displacement of Ukrainian citizens abroad, including combating human trafficking and other similar crimes.
“At the beginning of the full-scale war, Ukraine, together with the EU states, was a party to major international conventions and had a high level of cooperation with Interpol, Europol, and other institutions. We also had a developed network of bilateral agreements at the level of law enforcement agencies. This means that, together with our European partners, since February 24, 2022, we have been able not only to identify but also to combat with all available tools the problems associated with the mass movement of people fleeing russia’s atrocities in Ukraine,” the official stressed.
The Deputy Prime Minister noted that, together with EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, it was possible to establish from the very first day a permanent coordination mechanism and a special European information exchange platform.
“In Ukraine, 100 criminal proceedings on human trafficking have been initiated, in which only 47 citizens have been granted the status of victims of human trafficking, including 19 women, 25 men, and 3 children. Most of these crimes have undoubtedly had a cross-border effect. Some criminal groups used the early stages of the war to develop a human trafficking network, trying to exploit Ukrainians who were seeking refuge and needed support,” said Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna.
The official stressed that after the first cases of human trafficking, a global campaign to inform citizens crossing the border of Ukraine was launched together with EU and UN institutions.
“The unity of Ukraine and the EU lies not only in upholding democratic values and bringing Ukraine’s victory in the war closer, but also in joint efforts to overcome the large-scale challenges arising from russia’s aggression in Ukraine since 2014 and up to now. Our cooperation is a solid basis for ensuring that the most vulnerable people, including Ukrainians fleeing the horror of war, are not subjected to crimes of violence either in the EU or in Ukraine,” Olha Stefanishyna said.
The official paid special attention to the issue of forced deportation of underage Ukrainians to the territory of the russian federation.
“We are aware of 16,000 Ukrainian children deported to russia, and these are only facts confirmed by the Prosecutor General’s Office. These are children from specific orphanages for which we have registers and data. But we are sure that there are many more. Therefore, today it is important to use all available international instruments to ensure access to these children by various international observers and to obtain information about their placement and conditions. Moreover, we need to combine our efforts to implement the decision of the International Criminal Court to arrest those responsible for these crimes, including putin,” added Olha Stefanishyna.