Refugees fleeing Afghanistan due to fear of reprisals from the Taliban face an acute risk of exploitation by human traffickers, according to the Christian charity, CARE.
Lauren Agnew, Human Trafficking Officer for CARE, says :
"The desperate situation in Afghanistan is a recipe for human trafficking. Afghan citizens face an acute risk of exploitation by traffickers as they seek to flee violence and persecution under the Taliban regime whilst nations including the UK only accept a limited number of refugees.
"Afghan women, particularly fearful of what life may look like under new political leadership, are particularly at risk. Aware of attacks on their rights, they will want to try and escape Taliban control and oppression and may, in desperation, turn to illegal means of leaving the country.
"Traffickers deceive vulnerable individuals with the promise of a better life. But many end up falling into modern slavery, whether that means commercial sexual exploitation, forced labour, or domestic servitude.
They are forced to work for little or no pay, may have little to no freedom, and live in squalid conditions. Many experience physical or emotional abuse at the hands of exploiters.
"Western governments and NGOs must do all they can whilst officials are still on the ground to prevent refugees from falling into the hands of exploitative groups.
"And they must also step-up efforts to identify victims of human trafficking and modern slavery in their own jurisdictions in the months ahead, moving quickly to free them and provide them with access to support."
The UK government has promised 5,000 refugees to be resettled this year, in addition to the existing Afghan relocations and assistance policy scheme for locally employed staff and 20,000 in the coming years.