Bratislava, 24 July 2023 – “I’ve lived and worked in a small town in western Ukraine my entire life,” says 51-year-old Nastya. “However, when the war started last year, I began fearing for my safety and decided to leave.”
After a quick internet search, Nastya came across an online ad offering attractive jobs in the hotel industry in Slovakia. Convinced, she called the number and a woman named Eva picked up. On the spot, she was offered the opportunity to work as a housekeeper in a hotel in western Slovakia for EUR 800 a month.
Nastya gladly took it without much thought.
Soon after her arrival in Slovakia, Nastya fell victim to human trafficking and was forced to work. With few options at hand, she reached out to a centre for refugees asking for support. The centre immediately referred her to an organization working with victims and survivors of human trafficking.
“Trafficking in persons is one of the most lucrative and fastest growing criminal businesses in the world,” explains Zuzana Čáčová, Protection Officer with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Slovakia.
“Traffickers are there to meet the demand for cheap labour. For them, this is a business like any other – the only difference here is that the traded goods are people.”
Led by dreams of a more stable future and a better financial situation, others like Nastya find themselves in similar situations once they arrive abroad. Often lacking access to accurate information about safe migration, many embark on this journey not fully aware of the risks.
Zuzana explains that the methods used by traffickers to lure people are becoming more sophisticated and their deceptive techniques more malicious with each passing day. “Labour exploitation is one the major concerns for refugees from Ukraine looking to enter Slovakia’s labour market.”
In Slovakia, IOM emphasizes the prevention of human trafficking through a wide range of counter-trafficking activities, ranging from awareness-raising activities to individual counselling. IOM also organizes workshops about safe work for job seekers and training sessions for professionals in direct contact with victims.
“Sometimes, people find a job offer on social media or receive an offer from a friend that is very hard to refuse,” Zuzana explains. “However, they should be wary if someone offers them a salary that is peculiarly high, forces them to make a quick decision, changes the terms of the job offer or wants them to work without a contract.”
As part of its comprehensive efforts to reduce human trafficking and exploitation risks, IOM has set up info points at its Migrant Information Centres (MIC) along the Slovak-Ukrainian border, as well as in host communities. For the past year, IOM’s MICs have been conducting workshops on finding safe jobs in Slovakia for Ukrainian refugees.
IOM's Welcoming Slovakia webinars give participants the opportunity to learn about the basics of Slovak labour law, employee rights, safe online job search, red flags related to job advertisements, what an employment contract should contain, what to do when an employer refuses to pay wages, and how to safely terminate a contract.
Migrants working in Slovakia can now also access this information on IOM’s newly launched platform Safe Work, available in Ukrainian, English, and Slovak. The website provides valuable information for those looking to move to Slovakia for work as well as for those seeking seasonal jobs abroad.
The site also helps people know what to look for when searching for a job through an agency, an advertisement or through a referral from a friend, and how to prepare for a trip to minimize risks.
The website is accompanied by IOM’s mobile app SAFE Travel & Work Abroad which is designed as a series of interactive games which highlight the risks of human trafficking. The app provides vital information about warning signs related to human trafficking, tips on safe travel, and practical information on job placement services.
Zuzana stresses that for those who were forced to leave their home in Ukraine, finding a safe and legal job in their host country is vital for maintaining a decent lifestyle and preventing risky coping strategies.
“Knowing your rights enables you to better defend yourself against potential abuses. It's also an opportunity for the Slovak society to receive qualified labour force and strengthen its rule of law.”
IOM’s mobile app SAFE Travel & Work Abroad is available for free in 11 languages on Google Play, App Store and safe.iom.sk and can be used as a resource for educational activities about human trafficking.
If you have questions about safe migration, you can contact IOM via its hotline in Slovak at +421 907 787 374 or via email at email@example.com.
IOM’s counter-trafficking activities in Slovakia are funded by the U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This story was written by IOM’s Communication Team in Slovakia.