Ukraine-Russia: Calls for proper checks for Ukrainian refugee hosts as MSPs debate welfare

Campaigners have called for the Scottish Government to ensure proper checks are done to protect Ukrainian women and children arriving in Scotland from human trafficking as MSPs prepared to debate the welfare of Ukrainian refugees in Holyrood.

MSPs will debate Bill Kidd’s motion "Making Scotland Hostile to Trafficking and a Safe Place for Ukrainian Refugees” on Thursday evening.

In raising the debate, Mr Kidd referenced findings by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe that internet searches for Ukrainian women for sale for sexual exploitation had increased by between 200 per cent to 600 per cent across multiple countries in Europe since the Ukrainian refugee crisis started. In the UK, internet searches for Ukrainian women have increased by 669 per cent, compared with March last year.

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Mr Kidd said refugees from Ukraine needed to be provided with the “practical and emotional support needed to begin to find refuge and safety as they rebuild their lives”.

A young girl hides under her mother's coat as refugees from the war torn regions of Ukraine board a coach in Lviv, Ukraine. Picture: Getty Images

Concerns have been raised men could exploit vulnerable women seeking shelter from the war in the UK.

The Scottish Government’s super sponsor scheme aims to ensure hosts are vetted before refugees are placed with them. However, around half of those who have arrived here have matched with hosts privately.

Michael Veitch, of CARE for Scotland, which has campaigned successfully for better protection for victims of trafficking, said: "Having campaigned for the reform of prostitution law over many years, in particular for the criminalisation of the purchase of sex, and for action to address the scourge of human trafficking in modern Scotland, we strongly welcome the motion.

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"The recent tragic events in Ukraine have underlined the urgent necessity for action in this area. The Scottish Government and Parliament have the powers to act and should do so without further delay."

In a briefing to MSPs, CARE for Scotland said: “It is sickening that extremely vulnerable women and children, displaced from their homeland by war and in desperate need of a safe place, are at risk of exploitation by sex traffickers. CARE for Scotland welcomes the Scottish Government applying more stringent background checks to all hosts and not just where children are involved – as is the case in England.

"It is however essential that these refugees do not ‘fall off the radar’ once they have been set up with hosts. There must be adequate follow-up checks by local authorities who are trained to spot the signs of exploitation. We also recommend a crackdown on unofficial social media groups being used to match prospective hosts with refugees in need of safety. Such sites can quickly become a forum for traffickers and those with malign intentions."

CARE for Scotland has also joined other groups in calling for the purchase of sex to be criminalised, challenging demand for prostitution in Scotland.

The body added: "CARE for Scotland believes the only way to achieve the aims of Equally Safe and to reduce the harmful impact of prostitution is to make it a criminal offence to purchase sexual services and provide programmes to support women to exit prostitution.”

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