Identifying and acting on potential human trafficking of refugees from Ukraine

Updated 2 months ago | 5 min read time

The ongoing crisis related to refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine means there’s an increased risk of human trafficking activities taking place at hotels and other properties in Europe. The safety of you and your guests is our top priority. This article contains information about the signs of human trafficking and what you can do if you think it might be taking place at your property.

What’s in this article:

About human trafficking and the travel industry

What is human trafficking and what does it have to do with travel and tourism?

According to the United Nations, human trafficking involves recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring or receiving people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit.

Trafficking networks often use legitimate businesses, including hotels and other types of properties, to help them run their operations. For example, traffickers may use a hotel to house their victims while they’re in transit, or as a place to sell their victims’ forced services.

Trafficking victims can also be lured into exploitative jobs on a property’s premises, which may present safety and security risks not only for the trafficking victim but also for the business itself and its other customers.

Why is there an increased risk because of the refugee crisis?

According to the UN, 7.8 million refugees have fled Ukraine to other countries in Europe. Most of them are women and children, who are believed to be at an increased risk of trafficking, together with other marginalised groups who may not be able to access standard refugee protections. By learning about the signs of potential trafficking and how best to respond, you can equip yourself to respond quickly and enable authorities to help those in danger.

Spotting and acting on potential human trafficking

What are the signs of possible human trafficking?

Organisations that work to prevent human trafficking identify signs of possible human trafficking at hotels and other types of properties as including people:

  • Having verbal or physical abuse directed at them
  • Having their ability to communicate restricted or controlled by others
  • Having limited freedom of movement, or having their movement monitored
  • Having no control over their money, mobile phone or personal ID documents
  • Displaying fearful, anxious or submissive behaviour
  • Dressing much differently than you would expect given the climate
  • Having no knowledge of their current or past whereabouts
  • Showing signs of poor hygiene, malnourishment or fatigue
  • Unusually frequently asking for new towels or other linen

Other signs of possible human trafficking may include:

  • People entering and exiting rooms much more frequently than usual
  • Multiple rooms being booked under one name
  • One person or a couple checking in together with several women
  • Children travelling with one or more adults they don’t appear to be related to

Keep in mind that one or two of these signs on their own may not necessarily mean that human trafficking is taking place. For example, multiple rooms for a legitimate group trip might all be booked under one person’s name. But if you spot a number of these signs, you may have reason for concern.

What can I do if I suspect that human trafficking is taking place at my property?

If you suspect that human trafficking might be taking place at your property, please contact your country’s national anti-trafficking helpline. If someone is in immediate danger, contact your country’s emergency services on the usual number. You may also want to contact other organisations that can help, or to encourage people who may be at risk to contact those organisations themselves.

If the situation is related to a reservation made on our platform, please also call us.

As part of our commitment to respect and promote human rights, and in line with our values, we oppose all forms of modern slavery, forced labour, child labour and human trafficking. We’re committed to helping partners like you identify and report suspected human trafficking that might be taking place at your property.

What else can I do to help?

Polaris Project, a non-profit organisation that works to fight human trafficking in North America, recommends that you:

  • Display the IOM’s hotline contact information at your property in your local language as well as Ukrainian and Russian
  • Create policies to hire your employees directly whenever possible
  • Work with suppliers and vendors who source their products responsible
  • Adopt an anti-trafficking policy for your property
  • Train your staff to look out for signs of human trafficking
  • Establish a human trafficking response plan that includes a safe reporting mechanism

Further information and resources

General human trafficking resources

Hotlines operated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN’s migration agency, provide free information on irregular migration, human trafficking and options for legal migration. 

Most members of La Strada International, a network of non-governmental organisations focused on human trafficking in Europe, also run hotlines that provide local information. This can include legal considerations, useful phone numbers, safety tips and emergency help.

Resources in Ukraine

Resources in Poland

Resources in Moldova

  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration – call 080 090 990 (from within Moldova) or +373 22 690 990 (from abroad)
  • Centre for Combating Trafficking in Persons – call +373 22 254 998
  • National Coordination Unit of the Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Family – call +373 22 727 274

Resources in Slovakia

  • National Helpline for Victims of Human Trafficking – call 0800 800 818 (from within Slovakia) or +421 800 800 818 (from abroad)

Resources in Romania

Resources in Hungary


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