Canada helps to restore lives of human trafficking survivors and stop modern day slavery in Ukraine

For Ukrainian brothers Ruslan and Ivan, support from a Canadian international development project helped them reintegrate into Ukrainian society after being victims of human slavery. Once back on their feet, they opened a car wash business to provide for their families.
For Ukrainian brothers Ruslan and Ivan, support from a Canadian international development project helped them reintegrate into Ukrainian society after being victims of human slavery. Once back on their feet, they opened a car wash business to provide for their families.

Finding stable work in Ukraine to provide for your family can be difficult. Many Ukrainians, mostly men, are forced to look for work outside their country because of the need to put food on the table. Often, the promise of a job in the Russian Federation is too good to pass up. In many cases, though, the circumstances once you get there are troubling.

Two brothers, Ruslan (25) and Ivan (29), both married with two children and from a small town in western Ukraine, tell a story echoed by many other Ukrainians of their June 2013 work experience in the Russian Federation. Promised high-paying construction jobs, they discovered the realities of work in Russia meant being trapped and enslaved. Work hours were long and the men worked under guarded supervision in a locked-down fenced construction site. The brothers were commonly threatened, humiliated and physically abused. Escape was not an option because the men’s documents were taken away as a condition of employment. When the construction work was finished, the workers were sent back to the Ukraine with little salary; they claimed that once they had paid for food and accommodation, there was almost no money left.

As with many victims upon their return to the Ukraine, Ruslan and Ivan felt desperate. Still needing to find paid work, they turned to the local employment centre where they heard about a program offering assistance to victims of human trafficking.

A project supported by Canada, Combatting Trafficking of Children and Youth in Ukraine helped the brothers receive medical and psychological support, restore their self-esteem and self-confidence, and avoid further family crises as a result of what they had experienced.This project was established to provide support for human trafficking victims in Ukraine, a situation that has been on the rise since the early 1990s. In 2014, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) mission in Ukraine identified and assisted 903 victims of trafficking. These victims had suffered forced labour and sexual exploitation in 13 different countries, including Ukraine. Most of the victims were younger than 35 years old.

These 903 victims account for only a small fraction of the young people who have been exploited and forced into begging, commercial sex, production of child pornography, or forced labour. Few children and young people have access to social and psychological assistance and the other rehabilitation services they need. This type of assistance should be guaranteed to them by the Law on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings.

Canada is committed to supporting Ukraine’s efforts to fight modern day slavery. In partnership with the IOM Mission to Ukraine, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) Project coordination, as well as Ukrainian authorities and civil society, the Trafficking of Children and Youth in Ukraine project will assist young victims to seek protection, health care and justice. Project activities include improving the skills of government workers who provide victim assistance, raising public awareness, creating job opportunities, and providing rehabilitation and reintegration assistance.

As for Ruslan and Ivan, Canada’s support helped to get them back on their feet. Together they developed a business plan for a car wash service and won a grant to start their business. Their services are in demand and they are planning to expand and offer interior car cleaning as well.

Ukraine depends on the skills of its citizens of all ages to rebuild lives. Ruslan and Ivan are a good example of how supporting the human rights of Ukrainians will help citizens engage as positive members of society.