War & Labor

Exploitation Of Ukrainian Refugees in Europe


What is this project about?

After fleeing the war, refugees from Ukraine now face a new danger within the EU – labor exploitation.

In the wake of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, over six million people had to flee their homes. Many have sought safety in EU countries, who in turn answered the call with the activation of the "Temporary Protection Directive" in all 27 states. It granted Ukrainians swift access to housing, social systems and the labor market, allowing them to quickly participate in the workforce without the burdensome asylum processes. In the EU, the swift and firm response to the war and influx of refugees has garnered widespread praise and recognition.

But while some saw glimmers, not all proved golden. Amidst efforts to integrate and secure employment, many found themselves in unskilled labor industries such as cleaning, cooking, construction and manufacturing in supply chains – industries notorious for exploitative practices. Our investigations have revealed not just isolated incidents but a system of practices for taking advantage of those fleeing the war as well as an array of hurdles that keep people from speaking up.

Our team – comprised of journalists in Czech Republic, Germany and Lithuania – has uncovered evidence of withheld wages, denied sick leaves and vacation time. Written down in multiple stories in different languages, our findings illuminate the grim reality faced by many Ukrainians who sought safety and support but found exploitation and deceit.

This reporting was supported by the International Women’s Media Foundation and the Otto Brenner Foundation.

Who are we?

Special thanks to Alicja Ptak for cooperating with the research.

Follow us on Instagram @war.and.labor


Czech Republic




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