How social media can keep Syrian refugees safe from trafficking as they escape conflict

Millions of refugees travelling on routes through Europe are at serious risk of exploitation by human traffickers.

A groundbreaking new campaign by STOP THE TRAFFIK will use social media to disrupt trafficking operations on routes between Syria, Greece and Turkey.

As the world marks World Refugee Day on Saturday 20th June, new light has been shed on the plight of refugees fleeing conflict in Syria.

After suffering the trauma of war, family separation and a dangerous journey, many refugees are preyed upon by human traffickers who seek to capitalise on their displacement for profit.

Men and boys can be forced into labour, predominantly in the agricultural sector. Women and girls face the risk of being trafficked, being sold across borders or taken from camps for sexual exploitation. 

Child marriage is rife as families sell their daughters out of desperation, either to raise money to overcome the stigma of being raped or in the hope of preventing subsequent rapes.

Refugees and asylum seekers of Syrian origin in Turkey and Greece are one of the groups most vulnerable. There are approximately 4.1 million refugees in Turkey, 3.7 million of them Syrians.  In Greece, numbers have been increasing year-by-year. Many refugees stay on the islands they arrive at, in dire conditions due to overcrowding.

The routes taken by refugees and asylum seekers from Syria to both Greece and Turkey has been identified as a ‘hotspot’ route for trafficking risk.

The reduction or removal of social protection systems brought about by global health crises such as Coronavirus pandemic only make the situation worse, and play a particularly strong role in increasing the risk of Forced Labour and Trafficking. This vulnerability is increased in crowded, unprotected places, such as refugee and migrant camps.

Aman Safety, a new campaign launched by STOP THE TRAFFIK, will raise awareness, spread knowledge and, by signposting to organisation on the ground, offer alternative positive options for Syrian refugees and asylum seekers, keeping them safe from human trafficking while making the environment high risk & low profit for traffickers.

To achieve systemic change, STOP THE TRAFFIK will work with financial services organisations (FSOs), businesses and law enforcement partners at global, national and local levels. The charity’s partners in Greece and Turkey will lead with invaluable expertise and advice, and will provide support to refugees. After gathering intelligence on the ground – including exploitation types and trends, pinpointed locations and the most dangerous routes – STOP THE TRAFFIK can then target those most vulnerable using social media campaigns and community ambassadors.

STOP THE TRAFFIK’S innovative intelligence-led approach to combating human trafficking involves geo-targeting vulnerable groups with vital social media content. In the case of Aman Safety, refugees on the route from Syria will be reached with safety information, routes to avoid and contacts at organisations on the ground that offer support.

“Traffickers see people as opportunities for profit, and often use social media as a way to reach them and keep their business running,” said Amy Cuff, Campaigns Co-ordinator at STOP THE TRAFFIK.

“Instead, we use social media to disrupt the efforts of traffickers and get vital information before the traffickers can reach them. As a result of our campaigns, people have sought help from local organisations, declined potentially dangerous job offers and have advised friends who might be at risk.

“Aman Safety provides a unique opportunity to reach refugees and asylum seekers as they make the dangerous journey from war to safety.”

Aman Safety is funded by Comic Relief, as part of their ‘Across Borders’ initiative to help, support and protect Refugees and Asylum Seekers, ensuring they face positive futures safe from harm. 

Following the campaign, Syrian refugees will learn of ways to appropriately respond to potential trafficking risk and will be more likely to consult with relevant agencies to report exploitation. STOP THE TRAFFIK will also promote the services of organisations working in Syria and Greece, who can support Refugees and Asylum Seekers, offering training and programmes as alternatives to what traffickers are offering.

“Our systemic change model is tried and tested, and we’re delighted to have the opportunity to implement it on such a large scale,” said STOP THE TRAFFIK CEO, Ruth Dearnley.

“It is essential that we not only arm those at risk with the tools needed to recognise exploitation when they see it, but to provide real alternatives. Offering refugees the chance to carve out a new route, a new future free from the risk of traffickers, is Aman Safety’s mission.”

Notes to Editors

  • STOP THE TRAFFIK was founded in 2006, with a mission to end to human trafficking worldwide.
  • Although refugees and asylum seekers of Syrian origin in Turkey and Greece are the focus of Aman Safety, it is expected that STOP THE TRAFFIK will work with other grantees to create a better understanding of trafficking prevention during the campaign.
  • Last year, STOP THE TRAFFIK’s campaigns reached over 1.3 million people across 3 continents.
  • Despite a false presumption that human trafficking has decreased due to Covid-related travel restrictions and lockdowns, The World Economic Forum have predicted the virus will increase the number of people vulnerable to exploitation.

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