UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner calls for improved access to pensions for the internally displaced and other rights

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KYIV, Ukraine, 27 March, 2018 – Concluding a week-long visit to Ukraine, where four years of conflict have displaced an estimated 1.5 million people, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Mr. George Okoth-Obbo has called for enhanced actions to address the plight of conflict-affected persons and to secure their rights, including access to pensions and freedom of movement.


UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Mr. George Okoth-Obbo visits Maiorsk checkpoint.  © UNHCR/Hugo Reichenberger

The Assistant High Commissioner met with a number of refugees in the capital of Kyiv, noting their experiences and challenges, as well as with UNHCR’s NGO partners that support them.

In a meeting with Ukraine’s Vice Minister of Internal Affairs, Ms. Tetiana Kovalchuk, Mr. Okoth-Obbo shared UNHCR’s concerns over the low recognition rate for asylum-seekers. He also urged the authorities to facilitate access for UNHCR and its partners to asylum-seekers in international transit zones at airports to provide legal assistance.

“It is of concern to UNHCR that some asylum-seekers, especially Syrians, are not allowed to lodge asylum claims at airports,” said Mr. Okoth-Obbo. “Allowed access to them, UNHCR will be able to support the asylum-seekers in their applications, while also extending the necessary cooperation to the State Migration Service.”

Mr. Okoth-Obbo later traveled to eastern Ukraine where he observed UNHCR’s activities on the ground and met with people in need of humanitarian assistance. His first stop was at a school in Bogorodishna near Sviatohirsk, which is providing education to both local and internally displaced children. Afterwards, he met with a group of internally displaced people (IDPs) of different ages at a community center run by UNHCR partner Slavic Heart. The group highlighted the difficulties they face in accessing their pensions, the risk of being unable to pay for and losing their accommodation at the centers at which they are staying, poor living conditions at the centers and their hopes of being able to exercise voting rights in local elections.


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