KIND Launches New Project to Prevent Trafficking of Children Displaced from Ukraine, Welcomes Alexandra Malangone as Project Director

March 8, 2024

Amid the devastation of two years of Russia’s full-scale war in Ukraine, KIND is launching a new project in Europe: The Ukraine Child Trafficking and Core Crime1 Prevention and Accountability Project. The project is also called Suzir’ya, which means “constellation” in Ukrainian, named for how an array of international actors will collaborate to protect children who have fled Ukraine. We are proud to welcome human rights lawyer Alexandra Malangone as project director of this new initiative. 

Made possible by the generous support of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the three-year Suzir’ya project will bring together civil society, child protection, and law enforcement actors in Slovakia, Czechia, Poland, and Romania to protect children displaced by the war from trafficking, abuse, and other serious harm and help them access their rights. It will focus on capacity building in all four countries and create multi-disciplinary Hubs in Slovakia, Czechia, and Poland. These Hubs will connect civil society, child protection, and law enforcement where KIND lawyers and case managers will ensure that child-friendly, trauma-informed legal and case management support is provided for children who are at risk of or victims of conflict-related crimes including human trafficking. Hubs will also support law enforcement agencies to pursue conflict-related investigations where children and youth displaced from Ukraine are at risk, victims, or witnesses of these crimes. The Hubs will help to document and preserve evidence of international core crimes, including grave violations against children, for long-term accountability purposes. The project will analyze data through open-source intelligence tools to better track crimes and how children might be impacted. This data will be shared with law enforcement to inform policy responses and joint action to protect the best interests of the child.  The project will also hire a Child Protection Specialist who will convene a regional Child Protection Advisory Group to support systems strengthening activities and to foster collaboration, sharing of good practices, and the development of resources within the region.  

KIND will work with Child Helpline International, Human Rights League (Slovakia), and other experts and national civil society partners in Ukraine, Czechia, Poland, and Romania. Through these partnerships, KIND will be able to better protect vulnerable children who fled Ukraine and ensure their access to justice and safety. 

Since the start of the war, more than five million children have been displaced (internally and outside of Ukraine).2 These children are susceptible to sexual violence, exploitation, human trafficking, abuse, and neglect. There are approximately 1.3 million Ukrainian children displaced and registered for temporary protection in Europe. While the exact number is unknown, it is likely that tens of thousands of these children unaccompanied or separated, putting them at even greater risk of human rights violations and conflict-related crimes, including human trafficking, which has escalated since the war began. 

Suzir’ya will be led by Project Director Alexandra Malangone, a former Senior Lawyer at Human Rights Leaue in Slovakia and current Associate Fellow at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies Europe, where she coordinates the Human Trafficking Initiative Hub. Widely recognized throughout Europe as an expert in conflict-related human trafficking, she served as an independent expert in the Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA). In December 2023, she was awarded a Human Rights Defender Award by the US Embassy in Bratislava for her leadership in advocating for the protection of rights of trafficking victims and migrants and efforts to hold the perpetrators of crimes committed against refugees from Ukraine accountable.  

Earlier this year, Alexandra participated in Russia’s War on Children, a high-level conference held in Riga, Latvia, on the abduction and forced transfer of Ukrainian children into Russia. Speakers included world leaders such as First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska and former President of Latvia Egils Levits. Alexandra described how powerful it was to hear from children as young as eight years old who were abducted from Ukraine and taken to Russia, and who had later been returned, demonstrating the need for greater protection of vulnerable children affected by the war in Ukraine and worldwide. 

“I am very excited to join KIND,” Alexandra said,  

I know we are going to do good work with a team of inspiring people. I deeply admire the  culture, commitment, and expertise of KIND. In these really difficult times, you have to join forces, and that’s what this project is all about—bringing together civil society and those with expertise in child protection with law enforcement, ultimately to better protect children displaced from Ukraine.