EU warns of trafficking threat to children fleeing Ukraine

Hassan (above), an 11-year-old Ukrainian boy, crossed the border into Slovakia with just a plastic bag, a passport and a telephone number written on his hand. PHOTO: SLOVAK INTERIOR MINISTRY

STRASBOURG, FRANCE (AFP) - A top European Union official warned on Tuesday (March 8) the bloc needs to ensure unaccompanied children fleeing the war in Ukraine do not fall victim to people traffickers.

"We need to be aware that there are people, criminals, that could try to use this situation," EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

"There's a huge risk of unaccompanied children being victims of trafficking."

The United Nations said Tuesday that two million people have now fled Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion less than two weeks ago.

The EU has for the first time triggered its protection mechanism granting the refugees crossing over its border the right to stay and work in the bloc.

The vast majority of those arriving are women and children as men are called up for military service.

"We need to do more to protect the children," Ms Johansson said.

On Sunday, Slovak police said an 11-year-old Ukrainian boy, called Hassan, crossed the border into EU member Slovakia with just a plastic bag, a passport and a telephone number written on his hand.

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