Poland must “urgently” strengthen its prevention and surveillance measures to protect Ukrainian refugees on its soil, particularly women, victims of trafficking, violence and rape.
That’s the warning from Human Rights Watch, which released a new report on Friday about the situation.
HRW says the lack of checks can “increase the risks of trafficking, exploitation and gender-based violence.”
The new report also includes testimonies from women about what happened to them since they arrived in Poland.
One 29-year-old Ukrainian woman claimed the managers of a club where she had accepted a job as a dancer had tried to force her into prostitution.
Four other women interviewed also said that their employers had wanted them to work without pay. The report also recalls the arrest of a Pole accused of raping a 19-year-old Ukrainian woman he was sheltering.
Although there is praise for Poland for opening its borders to an estimated 2.9 million Ukrainians, HRW also notes that much of the assistance offered to refugees has been ad hoc and reliant on public goodwill rather than being formally and fully coordinated by officials.
“Poland’s acceptance of those fleeing the war in Ukraine is a positive shift from its response to other crises, but the lack of basic protection measures risks exposing refugees to serious abuse,” said Hillary Margolis, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.’
“Abdicating this role to volunteers and activists puts the burden of refugees’ safety on well-meaning but mostly untrained people without the needed systems or support.”
The new Human Rights Watch report found inconsistent protection measures in place and a lack of government coordination which amplifies the risks of abuse, especially for women and girls.