Traffickers and Trolls Target Ukrainian Refugee Facebook Groups

A Facebook group set up for Ukrainian refugees with British hosts has warned its members that Russian trolls and human traffickers may be infiltrating the group.

Room for Ukrainians in the UK is a Facebook group created over two weeks ago after the UK government announced that residents with no ties to Ukraine could be paid to host refugees.

The group already has an estimation of 16,200 members as of March 25.

Diana Shore, the founder of the group and an assistant professor at the University of Warwick, is concerned that Russian traffickers and trolls can infiltrate the group and has asked Facebook to implement protocols to protect its members.

“Only the government has the capacity to provide a safe matching service,” Shore said.

Shore said that while most of the posts are from Ukrainians seeking British homes, she has discovered some are from Russian trolls attempting to infiltrate the group.

“At the moment, it is being left to charities and social media. Modern slavery and trafficking are disasters waiting to happen. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg needs to step up. I want to protect this site. I need to be able to identify people with malicious intentions more easily so they can be blocked,” Shore added.

Shore has been regulating the site by searching the profiles of people who have posted suspicious comments and for any mention of ‘Russia’.

Shore acknowledged that this will not necessarily identify rogue members and hoped that Facebook could use software to identify the geographical location of individuals posting messages.

The UK’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities said all refugees and UK hosts will undergo background checks.

“All adults in a sponsor’s home, where Ukrainians will house, will be subject to Home Office checks before any visa is issued. Adults in the house of a sponsor will also be required to complete DBS checks, with an enhanced DBS with barred list check for everyone where families are hosting children or vulnerable adults,” the UK department said.

More than 150,000 people have signed up for the program to support Ukrainian refugees.

The Ukraine Home Scheme will pay £350 ($464) per month to homeowners who can accommodate refugees for up to a year. Those seeking to offer a place must designate a person to house, and it has been unclear how hosts with no ties to Ukraine will be linked with those fleeing the nation.

Government ministers have stated that charities, colleges, or religious organizations may be able to interfere.

Room for Ukrainians has paired more than 50 families with UK sponsors.

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