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A place of safety? Protecting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of Ukrainian sanctuary-seeking women and young people
  1. Sarah Neal1,
  2. Pat Cox2,
  3. Jane March-McDonald3,
  4. Aisha Hutchinson4
  1. 1 Department of Social Statistics and Demography, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  2. 2 MIDEX (Migration, Diaspora and Exile) Research Centre, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK
  3. 3 School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK
  4. 4 School of Education, Communication and Society, King's College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sarah Neal, Department of Social Statistics and Demography, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK; S.Neal{at}

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Introduction and context

The conflict in the Ukraine has generated a flow of refugees unprecedented within Europe since the Second World War. Over five million (as of 17th June 2022) Ukrainians have fled to neighbouring countries to escape violence and destruction.1 Ninety per cent are women, children and young people under the age of 18 years. Many have left behind partners and other loved ones and must come to terms with both recent trauma and a disquieting future without the emotional and practical support of those they would normally rely on. They also face major risks to their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) with possible long-term negative consequences.2

Vulnerabilities and new challenges

Sanctuary-seekers face risks throughout their migratory journey, and the unique demographic composition of the Ukrainian refugee community creates specific heightened threats. Chaotic environments created by mass population movement in the immediate aftermath of conflict provide opportunities for traffickers to exploit vulnerable refugees. The region has long been notorious for the activities of its trafficking rings,3 and there are reports from neighbouring countries of Ukrainian women and children being targeted.4 Compounded by trauma already experienced, gender-based violence (GBV) is an ongoing risk during transition and in refugee settlements or holding centres, where women and girls are in danger of opportunistic assault.4 Growing numbers of credible claims of rape and other atrocities by …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.