In Kherson “Successful Women” remodeled an old apartment with funding from IOM and OSCE to create a transitory center for victims of trafficking. The “fixing-up” which only took one month was nothing short of a herculean task (see before and after pictures) and it is now a very nice facility with one bedroom for women with children, one for transit (very short stays of a few days), one room with two beds, a kitchen, living room and area for private consultations. When I arrived the shelter was empty and I slept in one of the rooms while Anzhela Lytumenko, a psychologist by training and the trafficking specialist for Successful Women, stayed at the center as well. Anzhela is seven months pregnant and rotates shifts with another psychologist at the shelter. Since they opened in 2006, 40 people have stayed there, the majority returning from Turkey. Women can stay at the shelter in Kherson for up to three months and they will refer them to IOM in Kyiv if it is a situation they are unable to deal with or if the person is not from Kherson. Anzhela said the women are expected to cook for themselves but that she helps them if they are unable; she explained that some of the women were young and had only lived with their parents before. There is also a 9 pm lock out time and no alcohol allowed.
Volunteers of Successful Women also ran a domestic violence shelter last year which provided services to 30 women but funding ran out and they had to close the doors. Lydmila Kympan, the specialist on domestic violence, said the government runs a shelter in Kherson but they allow women to stay for up to a year and just provide for all of their needs instead of offering any real program for reintegration.
In addition to trafficking, another problem they see frequently result from Ukrainian women marrying Arabic men in Ukraine and then return to the Arab country with their husband. Many of women find themselves in difficult situations there but once they get a divorce or leave, it is almost impossible for them to get their children or gain access to them. An organization working on trafficking in Vinnytsia, Springs of Hope (Dzherelo Nadii) also brought this up as a major concern and said that since there are no Ukrainian government posts in many of the Arabic countries, there is no one to help mitigate the situation. Springs of Hope , a new, husband and wife team organization, has seen 40 people since they started providing services.
IOM’s Return and Reintegration
The International Organization for Migration provides return and reintegration assistance to victims of trafficking in Ukraine. NGOs such as the ones in Kherson and Vinnytsia typically refer victims to IOM but sometimes they receive referrals through law enforcement or IOM missions in other countries. IOM also has a new project underway to educate religious leaders about trafficking and available services. Many people, particularly in western Ukraine, go to priests for a blessing before going abroad or making a major life decision so IOM has worked to educate priests about resources available and warning signs of trafficking. Priests can also help identify victims. In Ternopil, one of the main anti-trafficking NGOs reported that 30 percent of identified victims come from priests.
When a person is identified as having been trafficked, they are sent to Kyiv where IOM staff picks the person up at the airport and counsels them on available services such as medical treatment, legal advice, employment counseling and training. Everything is at the discretion of the returned person, however, and some people decide to leave immediately and return home. A woman at IOM who works on return and reintegration told me that many of the people they see are still unaware that what has been done to them is a criminal offense. In the other cases, the person escapes and returns to Ukraine. They are then recommended to IOM through a local NGO or law enforcement and screened by IOM to determine if they are eligible for services.Since 2000, IOM has assisted 4,000 victims.
IOM supports five shelters in Ukraine and has a comprehensive transit center in Kyiv at the hospital. I was told that they recently found out that there are also some state shelters but IOM does work with them at present.
The IOM Chief of Mission said they are currently working to phase out shelters for trafficked persons because they realize they are not an appropriate solution. Presently, IOM is working to phase out their shelters; the chief of mission told me that they realize they are not an appropriate solution for most victims of trafficking. People who have come back to Ukraine typically want to return to their home and not stay in a shelter and those who are in Ukraine from abroad are typically trying to return to their own country. Additionally, trafficked persons are usually well-educated, entrepreneurial individuals who do not want to stay in the shelter for any more than the transitory period. In those cases where a person cannot return home, subsidizing the person’s apartment until they can get back on their feet is the best solution and given the expense of maintaining shelters this would also be more cost effective. For those shelters IOM is currently supporting they said they would give the NGO discretion on how to use the facility. In some cases this could become an information center or a shelter for women to escape situations of domestic violence and receive counseling.