SOLWODI – Support for Ukrainian Women
SOLWODI is concerned about trafficking of Ukrainian women in Germany. We have had reports that traffickers tried to approach women at train stations, where trains from Ukraine and Poland arrive, offering free transport and accommodation. Some were asking the women to hand over their passports to them “to help with registration”. When police approached the scene, these people quickly disappeared.
SOLWODI has developed flyers in English and Ukrainian to warn women against human trafficking. We are also running awareness campaigns with local authorities, parishes and other organizations that are involved with refugees to help them recognize signs of trafficking and exploitation.
We are concerned not only about human trafficking but also about exploitation in private households. While the generosity and commitment to support Ukrainian women and their children is overwhelming and wonderful, there are unfortunately always a few persons that abuse the difficult circumstances of these women. This may result in sexual exploitation but also exploitation for work. We have heard of cases that women were asked to run an entire household and care for elderly people in exchange for free accommodation. Obviously, there is a grey area of legitimate sharing of household chores vs. exploitation and the Ukrainian women often express their eagerness to help, therefore do not immediately recognize when a situation becomes exploitative. As such, the aforementioned awareness and training campaigns for local authorities and volunteers are very important.
SOLWODI in Germany has started to see an increase of Ukrainian clients. However, most of these women needed help with finding accommodation or registering with local authorities to be able to access social benefits. These were mostly women who did not have relatives or friends in Germany and did not speak the language, therefore requiring help.
We are expecting that it may still take some time before Ukrainian victims of human trafficking or other forms of exploitation will approach us. Women first need to realize that they are being exploited and then they need to find out where they can get support, which may be difficult if they don’t have language skills, don’t know the German environment or if their mobile phones were taken away from them. We have seen with previous refugee waves that it may take a few weeks or months before they show up at the counseling centers.
SOLWODI supports every year several hundred women that are victims of human trafficking. They receive psycho-social counseling, we organize medical, therapeutic or legal support, help with job trainings or accommodation, etc. If required, women and their children can find refuge in one of SOLWODI’s safe shelter houses. The support is always tailored to the specific needs of the woman and her children. If Ukrainian women who are victims of human trafficking and exploitations approach us, we are ready to provide the same level of support and care to them as well.
By Maria Decker - SOLWODI
Talitha Kum network in Germany