March 25 (UPI) — Interpol said Friday that the international law enforcement agency has sent a team to support Moldova officials with investigations into reports of human trafficking of Ukrainian refugees and other crimes.
“Coming at the request of Moldova’s Interpol National Central Bureau (NCB) in Chisinau, the mission is providing on-the-ground support to law enforcement and humanitarian agencies managing the large outflow of refugees entering the country from Ukraine,” Interpol said in a statement.
Interpol said it has already received reports of human traffickers and smugglers waiting at Moldova’s border with Ukraine “to prey on vulnerable populations” like unaccompanied children fleeing the Russian invasion.
“In this period of time, we need the support and assistance that Interpol can offer to overcome the challenges and consequences resulting from the region’s evolving situation,” Ana Revenco, the Minister of Internal Affairs, said. “We are grateful for INTERPOL’s responsiveness and look forward to a productive collaboration.”
Data from the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees shows that more than 3.7 million refugees in total have fled Ukraine since the start of the invasion. More than 376,000 of them have fled for Moldova.
Most refugees, about 2.2 million, have fled for Poland while 573,000 have fled for Romania, 337,000 have fled for Hungary, and 264,000 have fled for Slovakia.
Missing Children Europe, a group of 24 organizations dedicated to protecting children across Europe, said in a statement Friday that its member organization in Ukraine had reported more than 1,000 cases of missing children.
“While reported cases of children going missing are currently low, the current circumstances are putting children at high risk of being separated from their families, falling victims of trafficking and going missing,” the statement reads. “This is particularly the case at the border crossings, train and bus stations.”
The United Nations Children’s Fund warned last week that children fleeing the war in Ukraine are at a high risk for human trafficking and exploitation.
UNICEF said in a statement Thursday that the war in Ukraine has led to the displacement of 4.3 million children and that 1.8 million of them have crossed into neighboring countries as refugees.
“The war has caused one of the fastest large-scale displacements of children since World War II,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “This is a grim milestone that could have lasting consequences for generations to come. Children’s safety, wellbeing and access to essential services are all under threat from non-stop violence.”
Earlier this month, German police warned female refugees arriving by train in the country that law enforcement had received several reports of men posing as volunteers to lure young women and children upon their arrival in Berlin.