Identifying and acting on potential human trafficking of refugees from Ukraine

Updated 2 months ago | 5 min read

The ongoing crisis of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine means an increased risk of human trafficking activities 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 happening at your property.

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, harboring, 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 run their operations. For example, traffickers may use a hotel to house their victims while 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, along with other marginalized groups who may not be able to access standard refugee protections. By learning about the signs of potential trafficking and how to best respond, you can prepare yourself to act quickly and enable authorities to help those in danger.

Spotting and acting on potential human trafficking

What are the signs of possible human trafficking?

Organizations that work to prevent human trafficking identify signs of possible human trafficking at hotels and other types of properties by noting people who:

  • Have verbal or physical abuse directed at them
  • Have their ability to communicate restricted or controlled by others
  • Have limited freedom of movement or have their movement monitored
  • Have no control over their money, phone, or ID documents
  • Display fearful, anxious, or submissive behavior
  • Dress much differently than expected, given the climate
  • Have no knowledge of their current or past whereabouts
  • Show signs of poor hygiene, malnourishment, or fatigue
  • Ask for new towels or other linens with unusual frequency

Other signs of possible human trafficking may include:

  • People entering and exiting rooms more often than usual
  • Multiple rooms being booked under one name
  • One person or a couple checking in together with several women
  • Children traveling 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 indicate human trafficking. For example, multiple rooms for a legitimate group trip might all be booked under one person’s name. However, if you spot a number of these signs, you may have reason for concern.

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

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

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

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 labor, child labor, 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 organization that works to fight human trafficking in North America, recommends that you:

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

More info 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 organizations 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 (within Moldova) or +373 22 690 990 (from abroad)
  • Center for Combating Trafficking of Persons – call +373 22 254 998
  • National Coordination Unit of the Ministry of Labor, Social Protection, and Family – call +373 22 727 274

Resources in Slovakia

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

Resources in Romania

Resources in Hungary

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