UN expert calls for comprehensive strategy to address IDPs’ plight as winter closes in

GENEVA / KYIV (9 September 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, today called on the Ukrainian authorities to formulate a comprehensive strategy to prevent and address internal displacement, and provide durable solutions.

Ukraine is in the top category of countries with the highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) worldwide. The on-going conflict since April 2014 has placed hundreds of thousands of people in a difficult situation forcing them to flee their homes.

Photo: Ukraine Crisis Media Center

“I urge the Government to intensify its efforts to protect the rights of IDPs from the conflict affected east of the country and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea,” Mr. Beyani said at the end of his second official visit to Ukraine, which took him to Kyiv, Kramatorsk, Donetsk, Luhansk, Khartsyzsk and Sviatohirsk. (Reference to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea should be understood in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution 68/262 of 27 March 2014).

The UN expert, who followed up on the recommendations made in his 2014 report* to the UN Human Rights Council, commended the Ukrainian Government for the progress it has made to address the IDPs’ situation, including the adoption of a law on internal displacement and the establishment of the Ministry for Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons to deal directly with internal displacement.

“However, more needs to be done to effectively implement the law and harmonise resolutions passed under the law, as well as establish effective coordination mechanisms of response to displacement between national government ministries, as well as among regional and municipal authorities,” he emphasised.

Photo: Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine

Photo: Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights

The human rights expert noted that one of the main challenges affecting IDPs’ welfare is the link between IDP registration and payment of pensions and social benefits, a system currently based on the verification of place where they reside.

“Payment of pensions and social benefits must be delinked from registration, as this has led to problems in the verification of the residence of IDPs resulting in a suspension of such payments affecting some 500,000 to 600,000 IDPs in eastern Ukraine and this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency,” Mr. Beyani said. “Internally displaced persons should be able to receive their pensions and social payments wherever they are in the country.”

He also warned that the combined effect of the registration system and the suspension of payments is leading to secondary displacement, mass movements, and unsafe spontaneous returns that need to be addressed. Internal displacement has posed challenges to the original system of assigned residence called “propiska” to which social benefits were tied. “Although this has been abolished under the law, it must be discontinued in practice,” he stressed.

Photo: UNHCR/V.Shelest

In Government controlled areas, the expert underscored, the authorities have to ensure freedom of movement and choice of place of residence, while in Non-Government controlled areas, the leadership of the territories under the control of armed groups is bound by the same obligations, to the extent proportionate with national and public security measures.

“I have seen myself the issues around freedom of movement as I crossed the contact line: at the few available checkpoints along the contact line people queue for hours or days, at great risk to their safety; there are no efficient special arrangements for the elderly, children, pregnant women or persons with disabilities,” he said.

“With winter closing in, the situation is only bound to get worse,” the human rights expert warned. “Unimpeded access by humanitarians must be guaranteed unconditionally by all parties involved.”

During his nine-day visit to Ukraine, the Special Rapporteur met with a number of IDPs in collective centres who described experiences similar to those when he last visited two years ago, the main challenges they face with winter approaching, and without possible solutions in sight.

Photos: UNHCR/V.Shelest

“They have identified durable housing as a key element of solutions, together with access to livelihood opportunities. However, this remains to be addressed, as recommended after my last visit” Mr. Beyani said. He also highlighted the current lack of mechanisms for protecting housing, land and property left behind by IDPs and compensation for damage or destruction to such property.

Internally displaced persons in Ukraine who call for peace and resolution of the conflict are encouraged by the ceasefire that has held since 1 September this year. “The Minsk process which is handling issues of peace in Ukraine must also give consideration to the resolution of internal displacement alongside the peace process” Mr. Beyani said.

The Special Rapporteur also called upon the international community to support the Government of Ukraine in its efforts to address and resolve internal displacement. 

Photo: State Migration Service of Ukraine

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s 2014 report Ukraine: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/29/34/Add.3

The visit of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons was organized with the support of UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR).

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Mr. Chaloka Beyani, professor of international law at the London School of Economics, was appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2010. As a Special Rapporteur, he is part of the Special Procedures of Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization, and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/IDPersonsIndex.aspx

Check the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/Standards.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page - Ukraine: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/UAIndex.aspx

 

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