Migrant workers in Russia at risk of human trafficking
Migrant workers remain at constant risk of human trafficking
27 January 2021
What are the risk factors for today’s migrants and what changes would help combat human trafficking in Russia?
On 27 January, Safe House Foundation, an NGO (CSO) supporting people in difficult life circumstances, held an online meeting with experts specialising in the prevention of human trafficking.
Yuliana Pavlovskaia, programme specialist at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), spoke about global migration trends and how these are impacting on the vulnerability of migrants and victims of human trafficking.
Russia takes in the fourth highest number of migrants globally. There are currently 272 million migrants across the world — hundreds of thousands of people leave their homes every year in search of a better life and they face numerous risk factors on arrival or en route to their destination, including the risk of falling victim to human trafficking.
According to data from the International Labour Organization (ILO), in 2016 victims of modern slavery numbered 40 million, the majority of whom were migrant workers.
As the number of women and young people migrating for work has increased in recent years, so have levels of human trafficking aimed at labour exploitation.
Factors leading to the increase in human trafficking include:
- Fewer rights for migrants by comparison with the settled population;
- Migrants cut off from their communities and without access to social security;
- Increased demand for cheap labour;
- Unemployment in regional areas;
- Restrictive migration policies.
Groups at the biggest risk of falling victim to labour exploitation and human trafficking include refugees and stateless citizens, unaccompanied children, migrants with serious health conditions, migrants from minority communities, women, and the elderly.
Working with Vulnerable Groups
Russian cities with over a million inhabitants, such as Moscow, St Petersburg, and Yekaterinburg, traditionally host the largest migrant populations and, as a result, they are the most active hubs for potential victims of labour exploitation and human trafficking.
One of the key tasks for the government’s handling of migration is to monitor and mitigate the risk factors which migrants may encounter. For this to happen help is needed from CSOs and possibly diaspora communities; only with such cooperation will this be long-lasting and sustainable.
Right now in Russia migrants receive practically no government support. Funding and programmes are absolutely vital to ensure that migrants are included in the vulnerable groups in need of assistance.
“We are witnessing changes in our country with regard to human trafficking. One of the most positive steps forward has been Russia’s entry into the IOM in 2020,” says Pavlovskaia.
When IOM began working in Moscow in 2006 to prevent human trafficking it was much more difficult to open any sort of dialogue with the government. Now representatives of law enforcement and municipal authorities often identify victims themselves, but these measures will have little overall effect unless a national action plan is adopted together with relevant legislation.