Around three million people, mostly women and children, have fled Ukraine across international borders since the war began. The latest estimates from UN agencies predicts that four million people will be displaced from the country as the conflict continues.
Poland, which shares a 500-kilometre border with Ukraine, has taken in the majority, with effectively two Ukrainian refugees entering Poland every three seconds. According to reports, around 250,000 refugees have also crossed the border into Moldova.
With Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 required to stay and support the war effort, it is women and children who make up 90% of refugees.
The exodus from Ukraine is the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since WW2, and right now, attention is rightfully focussed on their entry and reception. Volunteers are serving up soup and sandwiches, handing out clothes and sleeping bags, and offering temporary places to stay.
But soon the EU will need to consider how to best help the refugees settle in. Activation of the Temporary Protection Directive gives Ukrainians the right to access key integration-related services and employment, but national administrations now face an enormous challenge to make such access a reality.
Meanwhile, fears are growing that among the refugees who have arrived in Poland, Moldova, and other European countries, many now face much greater risks of being exploited, trafficked and forced into prostitution.
German police recently confirmed rumours that some of the refugees crossing the border had been approached by people and offered money to come and “stay” with them. As well as women, young people traveling alone are being targeted. The social media network Telegram is being flooded with reports that traffickers are trying to pick up children and women traveling by themselves.
In some countries, specialist anti-trafficking NGOs are disseminating leaflets to refugees, warning them of the risks of accepting transportation and accommodation from strangers, and informing them how to seek help and report suspicious cases to national helplines for trafficking victims.
Once the refugees have safely crossed the Ukrainian border, it is vital, therefore, that attention shifts to their protection and the provision of safe and legitimate job opportunities so they are not lured or tricked into human trafficking.
This is the focus of Jon Purizhansky. He is CEO of Joblio, a technology-based platform that connects potential labour migrants with employers via a transparent digital process that mitigates employer fraud and human rights violations. He is also a New York lawyer and a former refugee from Belarus.
“I relate to these people because I used to be a refugee. I was a teenager when my family and I went through the same thing,” Jon Purizhansky tells Monaco Life. “What is different about this refugee wave from the last in 2015/2016, is that was a group of men from the Middle East and this is women and children from Ukraine, so it is a completely different community from a demographic perspective but also from a vulnerability perspective.”
Joblio has been established for around two years now, primarily connecting male labourers in countries like Africa, South East Asia and Latin America with jobs in Europe.
Since 24th February, it’s operations in Poland and Moldova have kicked into hypergear and, with Joblio staff positioned at refugee centres in Moldova and on the border with Ukraine, the company is now helping female refugees find work in Germany, home to one of the largest Ukrainian communities in Europe.
“Being a refugee means that you don’t know what will happen tomorrow because you are on the run. So, Joblio turns the unknown into the known by securing employers in Germany who are willing to provide these refugees with jobs. Germany has a strong economy and a very severe shortage of labour, particularly within the fields of hospitality, care giving, and office cleaning. These sectors do not require formal qualifications, which is why they are a perfect temporary solution for the refugee community. Some used to work in agriculture, others were professors of French literature just two weeks ago. Now they are all the same.”
Purizhansky says that Joblio is using its existing corporate infrastructure in Europe to hire citizens of Ukraine, in compliance with a government-to-government agreement that existed between Poland and Ukraine prior to the refugee crisis that allows Polish companies to bring Ukrainian citizens on staff immediately. “This allows us to then place them with clients in Germany, thereby creating a secure and safe environment for the refugees while providing the German corporates with the staff that they need.”
Monaco Life met with Jon Purizhansky while he was in Monaco in September 2021. He told us then that his aim was for Joblio to become the global standard and platform for cross-border employment, utilised by corporates and governments throughout the world.
Joblio is not an NGO, says Purizhansky, it is a business, so it is geared towards efficiency and benefits everyone involved.
Backed by legal expertise in the fields of immigration law, tax law and labour law, Joblio is also an inspiring social impact project.
“We are sending the first bus of refugees to Germany, where Joblio Germany staff are going to meet them on the ground. We are doing this Elon Musk style, creating impact by operating a business. We are delivering staff that the German companies are advertising desperately for,” says Purizhansky, adding that half of the refugees on the bus are children.
“These are women with kids, so we also securing housing for them as well as childcare, daycare and schooling. We are going to create an ecosystem for them that allows them to safely move to Germany very fast, and have their kids in childcare or school. Our entire team is on it so they can start going to work and supporting themselves. This is also very helpful to the government of course, because they don’t have to subsidise them.”
Purizhansky is now calling on the corporate sector and the largest companies in Europe to join Joblio in its quest to create a safe and secure environment for the refugees.
“It is very important that we get help from the corporate sector and that it does not meet this initiative with cynicism. But even if we do face cynicism, the trump card is the business sense that it makes to the corporate world. It’s a win, win.”
Photo by Derek Thomson on Unsplash