Charities are fighting to stop predatory crooks snatching child refugees, amid claims that some have gone missing after crossing Ukraine’s borders. More than 2.5 million desperate people – including over a million children – have already fled the conflict.
Extra measures to protect children are now being introduced following reports there had been ‘minimal checks’ on drivers at checkpoints offering free lifts across Europe. Under UNICEF’s latest plan refugees will be directed to ‘Blue Dot’ centers so “unaccompanied and separated” youngsters can be identified by child protection officers, the Mirror reports.
It is working alongside refugee charity UNHCR to ensure all are officially registered with Blue Dot sites so far set up in neighboring Romania and Moldova. British UNICEF emergencies specialist Joe English is helping organize the set-up in Poland.
Joe, from Oxford, explained: “Sexual exploitation and abuse, trafficking, abduction – the chaos of people uprooting their lives in a very short period of time means there are actors with motives, as it’s an easy way to prey on children. Normally checks would be made at the border to identify unaccompanied kids, but the sheer scale and chaos of this means this hasn’t always happened, which can leave them at risk.
“So we plan to have child protection specialists and counselors within these spaces to identify vulnerable families and children.”
Also assisting at the border are two doctors from UK hospitals who drove 1,000 miles to deliver lifesaving medical supplies to treat wounded Ukrainian troops. Dennis Ougrin and Roman Cregg – both originally from Ukraine – were working at the Humanitarian Aid Center in Przemysl, Poland.
They had driven for 36 hours to deliver much-needed kit, including an ultrasound machine to help detect shrapnel inside the body, military-grade first aid packs and burns bandages.
Dennis, a professor of child psychology, and Roman, a consultant anaesthetist, studied together in their home country and moved to the UK in 1998. The pals, both 46, are part of the Ukrainian Medical Association of the UK, which is collaborating with dozens of British doctors to get supplies to the country.
Father-of-four Roman, of University College Hospital, central London, said: “It feels right to do this. Every Ukrainian life everywhere in the world changed two weeks ago, for good.”
Dennis, who works at Queen Mary’s Hospital, south London, and his wife Oksana Litynska, 45, brought a £21,000 ultrasound machine with their own cash and it has already been used to treat wounded soldiers in Lviv.
The couple, who live in south London, have since raised enough to cover the cost and buy a second ultrasound, which will be sent to a hospital in Khmelnytskyi, western Ukraine.
To donate to the medics’ fund, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dennis-Ougrin3 Or help kids via UNICEF UK’s appeal at unicef.uk/ukrainedonate
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