People arriving from Ukraine - risk and need: public protection guidance

Guidance for all practitioners involved in safeguarding of children and adults who are arriving in Scotland from Ukraine to identify and respond to risk and need.

Public protection

Human Trafficking and exploitation

Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation or transfer, harbouring or receiving or exchange or transfer of control of another person for the purposes of exploiting them. People can be trafficked and exploited for sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, domestic servitude, criminal exploitation and organ removal. It does not require the victim to have been moved, nor does it always require coercive means such as threats or intimidation to be present, and it is irrelevant if the victim ‘consented’ to any part of the action. Anyone can be vulnerable to trafficking or exploitation. 

Ensuring people arriving from Ukraine are clear on their rights in Scotland can help to mitigate trafficking risks. JustRight Scotland has developed a suite of rights-based legal factsheets specifically for people arriving from Ukraine.

The Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA) and JustRight Scotland have also collaborated to produce a leaflet explaining human trafficking and exploitation to arrivals and what may constitute concerning behaviour towards them. This leaflet is  available in Ukrainian and Russian on JustRight Scotland’s website.

Human Trafficking and Exploitation - Ukrainian Version

Human Trafficking and Exploitation - Russian Version

The Scottish Refugee Council, Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance, Survivors of Human Trafficking in Scotland and Migrant Help have developed a joint presentation for professionals supporting people arriving from Ukraine. This  aids understanding of what human trafficking is; sets out some of the key indicators and explores their role and how to report concerns. Please contact if you or colleagues would like to know more or request an input from the presentation.

While undertaking their journeys or upon reaching a destination, people seeking refuge can be exposed to trafficking for various purposes, including sexual, labour, and criminal exploitation. For more information, see Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

In Scotland men make up the majority of known trafficking victims with most reporting that they are victims of labour exploitation. However, across the world the most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation. According to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls. Europol has stated that women and children fleeing Ukraine are most at risk for both sexual and labour exploitation.

Support workers need to remain alert for indications or attempts to recruit potential victims of human trafficking, whether by opportunistic individuals or organised crime gangs. Potential victims may display a range of indicators and vulnerability to trafficking/exploitation once in Scotland must be recognised.

Local authorities are designated First Responder Organisations under the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which is the UK-wide framework for identifying and providing support to victims of trafficking and exploitation. Local practitioners should refer to the NRM Toolkit for more information on how to approach a potential case of human trafficking and exploitation.

Potential adult victims should understand and have provided consent about entering into the NRM before a referral is submitted. If the potential victim is under 18 years old, Child Protection Procedures must be initiated in the first instance. If the potential victim’s age is disputed, until an age assessment is completed, they should be treated as a child and safeguarding procedures followed.

In Scotland, human trafficking concerns from local practitioners should be reported through Police Scotland on 101 or 999 if an individual is felt to be in immediate danger. The Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline and their Unseen App can also be used to obtain further information about human trafficking and to report concerns.

Potential adult victims of human trafficking and exploitation are entitled to support and assistance under the NRM in Scotland.  This support is delivered by the TARA, for adult women trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation, and Migrant Help for all other adult trafficking cases.

Practitioners can also contact the Scottish Guardianship Service whose guardians can provide practical help and support to child victims of trafficking (or those deemed at risk of being trafficked) to navigate the immigration and welfare processes.

SOHTIS (Survivors of Human Trafficking in Scotland) provide a second tier support service for Local Authorities or NGO's in Scotland to assist in navigating the NRM process or for direct client advocacy. In addition, with the support from Edinburgh City Council and the Third Sector Interface in Edinburgh, have produced resources regarding the risks of human trafficking for Ukrainian arrivals and for practitioners who are supporting them. They can be downloaded from their website: SOHTIS Human Trafficking Resources in Ukrainian and English

Police Scotland’s National Human Trafficking Unit continues to engage closely with Border Force and British Transport Police to maintain high visibility of human trafficking and exploitation risks at points of entry around Scotland.

Witnesses and victims of war crimes in Ukraine

Children and adults who arrive in the UK may report that they have been the victim or have witnessed War Crimes prior to leaving Ukraine.

Police Scotland are part of the national policing response to gather evidence for the International Criminal Court (ICC) enquiry into potential war crimes in the affected region and can be contacted through normal reporting channels to make an initial report.

The Metropolitan Police host the reporting service for all UK Police Forces. In the first instance a person reporting, a war crime to Police Scotland will be encouraged to make an initial report utilising the link below and upload any evidence they are in possession of such as mobile phone footage. Met Police: Report a War Crime

Any person who wishes to report war crimes which they have witnessed, or have evidence of, can also use the above link independently of Police Scotland. Officers from Police Scotland will ensure that all necessary safeguarding or victim care measures are put in place.

There is the potential that Rape or other Serious Sexual Crime could be reported as a War Crime. Protocols for officers from Police Scotland responding to a crime of this nature will follow existing practices with prioritisation given to the welfare of victims, provision of specialist support and where appropriate the capture of forensic evidence.

Domestic Abuse and Violence against women and girls

It should be noted that domestic abuse law here may be more developed and robust than in Ukraine, so arrivals from Ukraine may not necessarily identify domestic harm as something to report. Therefore, support to understand laws, rights, referral pathways, and other support networks available is crucial.

The war has placed a spotlight on the heightened challenges faced by women and girls, including older women. 60% of people over 60 years old who have been affected by the war are women.

Our vision is of a strong and flourishing Scotland where all individuals are equally safe and respected, and where women and girls live free from all forms of violence and abuse, as well as the attitudes that perpetuate it.

  • we use VAWG to refer to a range of actions that harm, or cause suffering and indignity to, women and children. These include but are not limited to:
  • physical, sexual and psychological violence in the family, general community or institutions. This includes domestic abuse, rape, incest and child sexual abuse
  • sexual harassment and intimidation at work and in public
  • commercial sexual exploitation including prostitution, pornography and trafficking
  • so called 'honour based' violence, including dowry-related violence, female genital mutilation, forced and child marriages and 'honour' crimes

We are strengthening the law and improving public safety by providing better protection to victims of violence against women and girls (VAWG), and holding those committing these crimes to account.

This includes modernising the law on domestic and sexual abuse in the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 including creating a specific offence of Domestic Abuse (for further information on Scotlands Domestic Abuse Laws and What to do if you suspect someone is experiencing domestic abuse).



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