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Local non-profit says Ukraine crisis increases risk of human trafficking

MGN

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- One Colorado Springs non-profit is offering support for Ukraine as the possibility of human trafficking becomes heightened.

Exodus Road, a Colorado Springs-based organization aimed at fighting human trafficking, signed a letter along with 60 other organizations condemning the war.

"You have a lot of women and children fleeing to the borders and they’ve left everything behind. They’re desperate, they’re frightened and human traffickers prey on situations like that," said Will Leitch, the executive director of philanthropy for Exodus Road.

Leitch says the stories coming out of Ukraine are heartbreaking.

"We’re watching the news and seeing a lot of stories where people have had close calls or where people have witnessed someone using threats after you know they’ve gotten transportation somewhere and have tried to go on their way. They’re told they owe them money, which they weren’t told upfront and then they’ve been threatened, so there’s a lot of stories of traffickers operating especially on the borders right now," said Leitch.

If they do make it into a different country, they have to be cautious when looking for jobs.

"So somebody could offer them a job, and it’s not just face to face there are websites that are offerings these refugees travel to some country, a job, and a place to stay. They respond to something they’ve seen online that looks very professional and looks legitimate until they end up trapped somewhere," said Leitch.

More than 4 million people are currently leaving Ukraine and the group says refugees become extremely vulnerable to trafficking. The refugee crisis is now at a level not seen in Europe since World War II.

According to the UN refugee agency, more than 90% of people fleeing the country are women and children. Raouf Mazou, the UNHCR assistant commissioner, said this indicates a “heightened risk of gender-based violence and other forms of exploitation and abuse, including trafficking.”

For more information on Exodus Road, click here.

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Jessica Gruenling

Jessica is a reporter for Good Morning Colorado. Learn more about her here.

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