The Russian propaganda machine has been churning out fake stories about visa-free travel for Ukrainians to the EU Schengen zone countries with increased intensity as the new travel regime went into effect on June 11. According to the Russian site Ukraina.ru, the new arrangement will cause many more Ukrainian women to be trafficked into sex slavery in Europe.
In an article entitled “The reverse side of visa-free travel” published just nine days after the new visa-free arrangement officially began, Ukraina.ru went out of its way to predict that Ukraine’s new freedom to travel to EU countries will negatively impact on the country and its society. Using two foiled attempts to transfer women from Ukraine to Europe for allegedly forsex work as proof that sex trafficking is growing in Ukraine, the article provides no details about the two cases but rather makes sweeping generalizations about Ukraine’s social problems and predicts that sex trafficking out of Ukraine will skyrocket.
According to the International Organization for Migration, it is Russia and not the EU that remains the main country of destination for trafficking from Ukraine, 67% of people trafficked in Russia in 2016 came from Ukraine, 64% in 2015 and 77% in 2014.
The director of the La Strada anti-trafficking organization Kateryna Levchenko told StopFake that introducing visa-free travel to EU countries does not lead to increased sex trafficking. “Neither Moldova nor Georgia saw an increase in human trafficking after the introduction of visa-free travel with the EU” she said.
Moldovan visa-free travel to EU countries went into effect in April 2014, Georgians have been able to travel visa-free to the EU since March of this year.
According to Levchenko, the country in which the largest number of Ukrainian nationals is subjected to trafficking is the Russian Federation. EU countries are not a priority for traffickers from Ukraine, she added, Turkey, China, United Arab Emirates, Philippines, Malaysia and Japan are the favored destinations.
Levchenko also pointed out that visa-free travel frees Ukrainians from criminal groups who provided visa services earlier. These groups would later force Ukrainians to work illegally to repay the costs of the visa many times over.