Photo by Malin HoffThe International Organization for Migration (IOM) Mission in Ukraine hosted its Third Annual Counter-Trafficking Awards Ceremony on October 18th 2007. The Ceremony, which took place at the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), honoured individuals and organizations that have distinguished themselves with dedication and courage in the fight against human trafficking. The event was organized in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the Ministry of Family, Youth and Sports of Ukraine, and with the financial support of USAID/Ukraine and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). Photo by Malin HoffThe International Organization for Migration (IOM) Mission in Ukraine hosted its Third Annual Counter-Trafficking Awards Ceremony on October 18th 2007. The Ceremony, which took place at the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), honoured individuals and organizations that have distinguished themselves with dedication and courage in the fight against human trafficking. The event was organized in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the Ministry of Family, Youth and Sports of Ukraine, and with the financial support of USAID/Ukraine and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Photo by Malin Hoff The International Organization for Migration (IOM) Mission in Ukraine hosted its Third Annual Counter-Trafficking Awards Ceremony on October 18th 2007. The Ceremony, which took place at the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), honoured individuals and organizations that have distinguished themselves with dedication and courage in the fight against human trafficking. The event was organized in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the Ministry of Family, Youth and Sports of Ukraine, and with the financial support of USAID/Ukraine and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Mr. Jeffrey Labovitz, Head of the IOM Mission in Ukraine, delivered the evening's keynote speech. He highlighted the efforts of the awardees who have each done their part to put an end to this deplorable phenomenon. Mr. Labovitz ended his speech with an impassioned appeal: "Please take inspiration from our heroes and take an extra moment ....to think about, big or small, what you can do to end human trafficking."

Mr. Ian Boag, Head of the Delegation of the European Commission to Ukraine, spoke about the role of individuals in combating human trafficking and presented an award for "Personal contribution in countering human trafficking" to Zoya Antonovna, an extraordinary woman who assisted an elderly lady who was trafficked and forced to beg by the people who enslaved her for 16 years. For two years Zoya brought the woman food and made every effort to help her escape this dreadful existence. Zoya displayed indescribable mercy and courage and eventually was able to persuade the elderly woman to turn to the district militia and IOM for help.

Ms. Liudmyla Lukinova, Deputy Minister of Family, Youth and Sports, talked about the salient role played by non-governmental organizations (NGO) and the national referral framework in joint efforts with the Ministry of Family, Youth and Sports to tackle human trafficking. Ms. Lukinova handed over awards for "Partnership and cooperation in countering human trafficking" to Natalia Sivitskaia from Faith, Hope and Love NGO in Odesa and Captain Oleksandr Lisakovskyi of the Odesa branch of the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) of Ukraine. "Faith, Hope and Love" and the SBGS developed mechanisms for the identification of trafficking victims who arrive to Ukraine through sea port or international airport in Odesa and for further referral of the victims to other organizations for reintegration assistance, such as shelter, medical services and treatment and legal advice. Since the inception of this partnership, 731 victims of trafficking have received assistance.

Mr. William Taylor, Ambassador of the United States to Ukraine, emphasized the importance of faith-based groups in putting an end to trafficking in human beings. The Ambassador honoured Father Ioan, who represents a different All-Ukrainian Charitable Foundation also named "Faith, Hope and Love" for the organization's tireless work over the past several years to enlist the capacity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and develop a strategy for the fight against human trafficking in Ukraine. The Foundation helped with establishment of two successful church resource centers for countering human trafficking and with organization of educating seminarians about the problem.

Mr. Borys Bazylevskyi, Head of the Consular Service Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stressed the fruitful cooperation between the private sector and the Ministry. More specifically, he noted the government initiative that entails sending text messages to mobile phones of Ukrainian citizens traveling abroad that provide information on how to get in touch with Ukrainian Embassies and consulates if trouble were to arise. Mr. Bazilevksyi presented awards for "Corporate social responsibility in countering human trafficking" to representatives of Astelit - life:), Kyivstar and MTS for their launch of a toll-free number-"527"--that Ukrainians can use to receive reliable information on migration and rights of Ukrainian nationals abroad. Since its launch, close to 3,000 Ukrainians, mostly young people, have called "527" seeking information, and 34 victims of trafficking have been identified.

Mr. John-Christer Ahlander, Ambassador of Sweden to Ukraine, spoke about efforts undertaken by the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) to fight human traffickers and the criminal groups that fund and drive these despicable processes. The Ambassador presented awards to 5 law-enforcement officers that have exerted personal efforts to stop human trafficking in Ukraine. Colonel Pavlo Bevzenko, the Deputy Head of the Main investigative directorate of the MOI, initiated the creation of a special investigative unit under the Main Investigative Department in 2007. MOI special investigative officer in Volyn Oblast, Major Anatoliy Vichynyuk, was involved in breaking up 5 organized criminal groups and rescued 70 victims of trafficking. The Deputy Head of the Department for crimes related to human trafficking, Captain Oleksandr Mel'nykov, has solved 20 criminal cases related to trafficking in human beings. The Head of the Department for crimes related to human trafficking in Mykolaiv Oblast, Lieutenant-Colonel Igor Bloshko, has eliminated 2 organized criminal channels and contributed to the development of fruitful cooperation with law enforcement agencies of other countries. The Head of the Department for crimes related to human trafficking in Donetsk oblast, Colonel Oleg Poplavs'ky, helped eliminate 20 criminal channels and returned 101 victims of trafficking to Ukraine.

People's Artist of Ukraine Olexiy Bohdanovych and actress Ms. Iryna Bardakova were the Masters of Ceremony at the event. The "New Era Orchestra" Chamber Orchestra and the tenor trio "Solov'yi Ukrainy" enchanted guests with their performances.

Numerous media outlets, including several national television stations, covered the awards ceremony. In all, more than 35 media organizations were represented at the ceremony, ensuring that anti-trafficking messages will be spread across Ukraine.

An estimated 100,000 Ukrainians have been trafficked since independence in 1991. While 78% of the Ukrainian population is aware of the existence of human trafficking and 66% of the population considers it a problem for Ukraine, only 30% believe it can happen to them. Informing citizens about dangers of human trafficking should be topping the government's agenda in order to reduce scope of this violent crime. Coordinated and targeted efforts of government, NGO and business sector are necessary to terminate human trafficking and protect Ukrainian citizens.

Photo report of the event