5 December 2014

Ukraine has adopted a new law to protect the rights of the more than 513,000 people displaced within the country. The law, approved by the Ukrainian President on 20 November, had been backed by the Parliament on 20 October. The majority of the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) within Ukraine are women and children from the eastern regions of Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea. The law addresses a number of urgent needs linked to the internal displacement, however it fails to protect foreign or stateless IDPs in Ukraine.

The law recognises the rights and freedoms of IDPs, establishes a simple procedure for registering IDPs as wells as a Unified IDP State Registry, and aims at providing IDPs with temporary accommodation. The new law establishes that temporary accommodation shall be provided by the State for up to six months following registration. Large families, persons with special needs, or elderly persons can be hosted in State-provided accommodation for a longer period. The law also makes provisions to return home voluntarily, and access to social housing or home loans on favorable terms for those who wish to settle elsewhere.

It also simplifies access to a number of civil, economic and social rights, such as residence registration, access to employment, medical assistance in public health care institutions, provision of pensions and access to rehabilitation for IDPs with special needs. Ukraine shall ensure a fair distribution of international aid to IDPs taking into account specific needs of persons with disabilities, women and children, single parents and elderly citizens. Central authorities responsible for education shall ensure that the various educational needs of IDPs are met by establishing networks of pre-school, primary and secondary education institutions as well as vocational schools. The law further establishes that social and administrative services should be provided at the place of stay, including changes to civil status records. The law protects IDPs against discrimination on the basis of their internal displacement.

According to the current Ukrainian legislation in force, IDPs are entitled to limited state benefits. In particular, people able to work receive 442 UAH (around 22 EUR) a month and children and people with disabilities receive 884 UAH (44 EUR) per month.

IDPs, as defined by the law, have the right to vote provided that they officially change their constituency, without modifying the permanent voting address.

Many stateless people, refugees or foreigners legally residing in Ukraine have also lost everything, including homes, documents, livelihoods and contact with their family members, due to the recent violence in the country.  According to UNHCR, Ukraine hosts over 33,000 stateless persons, including Crimean Tatars, stateless migrants, and former USSR passport holders. Even though the new law acknowledges a commitment by the Ukrainian government to regulate the situation of foreigners, refugees and stateless persons forcibly displaced within Ukraine in a subsequent legislative instrument, no transitional protection is provided to such people.

“Even though the law potentially brings positive changes to persons concerned, its implementation should be closely monitored by civil society and the existing gaps highlighted by a number of commentators must be promptly addressed by Ukraine”, said Julia Zelvenska, ECRE’s Senior Legal Officer.


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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 5 December 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.