Right to Protection is an NGO dedicatedto protecting the rights of asylum seekers, refugees, stateless andundocumented persons, as well as internally displaced and conflict affected persons.
The cases of young Ukrainians crossing the border of Ukraine without their parents – accompanied by strangers, volunteers, distant relatives or even on their own – are striking and have become known around the world. Since the beginning of the war, the Right to Protection has been drawing the attention of the international community to the need to create standards to protect these children.
Tatiana Luzan, advocacy coordinator of theRight to Protection, spoke about the situation and work in this direction together with other organisations at the International Conference “War Aftermath: Reconsidering The Future Of Civil Society” in Warsaw. The topic of her presentation was the protection of children who cross the border unaccompanied and the harmonisation of Ukrainian and EU legislation in this area.
“Our foundation also received calls from parents who were desperate to send their children abroad with complete strangers because of the Russian atrocities going on at the time in Kharkiv, Zaporozhye and other cities. It was obvious to Right to Protection that it was time to intervene and also to involve colleagues from neighbouring countries in trying to resolve the situation,” Tetyana Luzan said.
The joint efforts of Ukrainian and international organisations for the protection of children and women was to prepare a document defining at least minimum standards of protection for unaccompanied minors fleeing Ukraine after the Russian invasion on 24 February 2022. For example, on child custody and safety in another country as well as their safe return home later.
And the final draft was created and became a model for intergovernmental agreements regarding the proper maintenance of child rights, protection and custody.
Its recommendatory provisions are based on UN legal instruments as foundations and EU instruments. In particular, such as the EU Temporary Protection Directive and the related implementing decision on Ukraine, the European Parliament resolution of 7 April 2022 on EU protection of children and young people fleeing war in Ukraine.
“The standard also states that the return of unaccompanied children to Ukraine must be in accordance with the guidelines of the national authorities and in the best interests of the child. In this way, it is ensured that possible future obstacles to the return of young Ukrainians home to their parents are avoided. At the same time, the EU and member states have urged not to consider the termination of temporary protection as an automatic ground for sending Ukrainian children if the situation in Ukraine does not allow for a safe and lasting return to its territory,” Tatiana concluded.
According to UNHCR there are 35 thousands persons with undetermined nationality and stateless persons in Ukraine. These people remain invisible to the state and cannot exercise their rights to education and health care, inherit, open a bank account, register marriage, cross borders freely, and so on (more about the statelessness problem in Ukraine in the material).
In 2021 Ukraine introduced a statelessness determination procedure (hereinafter – SDP) and during 2021 55 persons were recognised as stateless persons. More than 700 other applications have remained pending in the State Migration Service as of 24 of February.
In March and April 2022 beneficiaries of Right to Protection, who fled Ukraine to the European Union countries (Poland, Germany, Spain), contacted our lawyers to inquire what protection and legal status they may obtain in the EU.
2.A stateless person, recognised under the Ukrainian SDP and in possession of only a temporary residence permit may have legal difficulties in obtaining temporary protection in an EU Member State. Ukrainian law stipulates that a person recognised as a stateless person must be documented by usual temporary residence permit without issuance of any other identity document (like certificate of a stateless person etc.). More details about documentation peculiarities of stateless persons in Ukraine can be found in the report.
According to the Council Implementing Decision (EU) 2022/382 the temporary protection shall be applied to “b) stateless persons, and nationals of third countries other than Ukraine, who benefited from international protection or equivalent national protection in Ukraine before 24 February 2022; and,….Member States shall apply either this Decision or adequate protection under their national law, in respect of stateless persons, and nationals of third countries other than Ukraine, who can prove that they were legally residing in Ukraine before 24 February 2022 on the basis of a valid permanent residence permit issued in accordance with Ukrainian law, and who are unable to return in safe and durable conditions to their country or region of origin.”
Thus, a foreigner who fled Ukraine and has only a temporary residence permit must confirm benefiting from equivalent national protection in Ukraine, otherwise he/she may not be granted a temporary protection in a respective EU Member State. At the same time stateless persons from Ukraine may flee without a travel document of a stateless person, having only a temporary residence permit (they simply haven’t applied for a travel document).
The following documents may confirm the equivalent form of protection for the stateless persons in Ukraine (1) temporary residence permit issued to the stateless person in accordance with Article 6-1 of the Law of Ukraine “On the Legal Status of Foreigners and Stateless Persons” (as a result of SDP);
This card looks like a usual temporary residence permit issued in Ukraine to a foreigner, except in the column “Nationality” there is an abbreviation “ОБГ” that stands for Ukrainian “особа без громадянства” – in English literary “a person without nationality” or a stateless person.
(2) temporary residence permit for a stateless person issued on the basis of the Law of Ukraine “On Immigration”. This document may be in the form of a book, issued to some stateless persons indefinitely after 2001.
Alternatively, the document below was issued in Crimea in 2004 by a form, which does not completely comply with the legislation of Ukraine as of 2004. But it is impossible now to confirm issuance of documents in Crimea before 2014 and, subsequently, people are de facto compelled to live with such a document. The data was filled in Russian and Russian abbreviation “ЛБГ” is identical to Ukrainian “ОБГ” – a person without nationality (stateless person).
3.Applicants of statelessness determination procedure from Ukraine cannot be granted temporary protection according to the Council Implementing Decision (EU) 2022/382 because they have not yet received the equivalent protection in Ukraine and they don’t have a residence permit in Ukraine, they are considered as temporary legally residing in Ukraine during the procedure.
Most of these people are stateless or at risk of statelessness, who have been waiting for the SDP for many years or all their lives. Ideally, these people should be granted temporary protection as well. At least, they should receive professional legal consultation regarding legal status they may obtain in the relevant EU Member State , including access to the SDP and access to asylum procedure. The list of organisations in neighbouring countries that provide advice and assistance for stateless people fleeing Ukraine is available on the website of European Network on Statelessness by link: https://www.statelessness.eu/statelessness-ukraine-crisis”
Another problem is that applicants for the Ukrainian SDP who fled Ukraine are now concerned whether they could return to Ukraine after the war. They have obtained certificates on application for recognition as a stateless person.
It may be concluded that a certain number of stateless persons and SDP applicants fled Ukraine after February 24 and need special attention to be paid by the EU and its Member States given the peculiarities of documentation in Ukraine. However, some of the Right to Protection beneficiaries, who are not applicants for the Ukrainian SDP, have left Ukraine without any identity documents. They don’t have a passport or their nationality is undefined, but they probably possess some documents, for example, a birth certificate, a UNHCR Protection letter, a USSR passport or USSR travel document, a certificate issued by the foreign consulate confirming they are or are not a citizen of the relevant State, other certificates or copies of documents.
The mentioned group of persons should be provided with free legal assistance in order to obtain nationality or apply for a recognition as a refugee or a stateless person. There is no official data on the amount of persons with undefined nationality living in Ukraine and how many of them fled Ukraine after February 24. But these people were allowed to cross the Ukrainian border, some of them crossed other EU Member States’ borders afterwards.
For additional information on Ukrainian legislation relating to nationality, statelessness determination procedure and legal status of stateless persons in Ukraine, European lawyers and NGOs are encouraged to apply to “Right to Protection” by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
6 April 2022
HIAS Europe and Right to Protection (R2P) are calling on the EU and states to address paperwork problems that risk preventing people fleeing Ukraine from finding safe havens in Europe. R2P is an independent Ukrainian NGO that has managed HIAS’ humanitarian programming in Ukraine since 2014. More than 150 staff, many of whom have themselves been displaced, remain inside Ukraine and continue to deliver legal and humanitarian aid to people fleeing. R2P highlights the following concerns:
Digital identity documents not accepted
On 21 March 2022, the European Commission issued an indicative list of documents that are accepted as proof of Ukrainian nationality for the purposes of accessing temporary protection and related rights. Though this list was not exhaustive, digital documents were not included.
This puts Ukrainians who do not have paper identity documents – often as a result of loss, theft or destruction during hostilities or travelling – at risk.
Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia should accept digital identity documents as valid entry documents at the border. These are already accepted by Poland and Moldova.
Validity of Ukrainian driver’s licences not guaranteed
The validity of Ukrainian driver’s licences varies state to state, and people are required to apply for national replacements after a certain time lapse – e.g. 185 days in Slovakia, 365 days in Hungary. This creates unnecessary uncertainty and stress for refugees.
Ukrainian driver’s licences should be accepted as valid for the duration of temporary protection in at least Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and Moldova, if not all European states.
“I’m afraid that if I decided to leave I wouldn’t be able to cross checkpoints or borders because I don’t have documents. I’m also very scared they’d separate me from my children because I have no proof that I’m their mother,” – Svitlana Goncharova, a stateless person, one of our beneficiaries, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The woman is in Sumy and due to the lack of any documents she was afraid to leave the shelling, staying with her two children in the basement. Read about how she and her children are going through this difficult time and about life without citizenship in this Thomson Reuters Foundation article.
The Right to Protection Charitable Foundation deals with the problems of stateless people and at risk of statelessness in Ukraine. According to Sofia Kordonets, the foundation’s project manager, although neighbouring countries had their borders opened, only a few cases are known of stateless people being able to leave Ukraine (some of whom had expired Soviet passports). Stateless persons face great obstacles in finding accommodation and assistance if they decide to move around the country, it is difficult for them to go abroad and there is a high probability that they may never be able to return.
«Перше питання, як “The first question they ask us is often not “how can I leave?” but “how can I return?” – Sofia notes.
War puts the undocumented person in very difficult circumstances. Even in peacetime, a person without an identity document is restricted in their freedom of movement, and the fear of being detained is common for such people. Undocumented stateless persons (OBG) in Ukraine live with this fear for decades and sometimes their entire lives.
Right to Protection beneficiaries without identity documents are hesitant to move from dangerous war-torn regions in particular because of this fear. Forced into permanent life-long restrictions, they now find themselves trapped in dangerous localities and without the possibility of receiving assistance. Their only hope is the volunteers who are now working at the edge of possibility!
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are approximately 35,000 people with undetermined citizenship and statelessness in Ukraine. As there is no official and accurate data, so there may be more of these people. Some people do not have any documents, while at the same time they try to live, fighting for the right to a full life and even associating themselves with our state.
The Right to Protection does everything possible to help these people to continue their attempts to be documented and provides the necessary information and assistance.
Photo: Emma Batha, Thomson Reuters Foundation.
How to reduce the risk of emergencies in eastern Ukraine?
Members of SHIFT Project know how!
The International NGO ACTED has partnered with IMPACT Initiatives, Right to Protection (R2P), and the Danish Red Cross and Ukrainian Red Cross Society (URCS) to implement a 12-month Sustainable Humanitarian Interventions for Transition (SHIFT) project, funded by the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund (UHF).
This project provides humanitarian assistance and access to essential services in three frontline hromadas of Volnovakha raion in eastern Ukraine (Volnovakha, Olhynka, and Myrne), as well as supports strengthened government ownership and response capacity in coordination with development actors. Moreover, it is a pilot project and an important step for the humanitarian system. It shifts away from direct service delivery by external NGOs, who have been implementing the humanitarian response for the past 7 years, and moves toward sustainable and cost-effective response managed by ocal authorities.
One of the key objectives of the Decentralization Reform is to make social services as close as possible to the people who live in the amalgamated territorial communities (hromadas). The process of transferring the authority to provide social services to the local communities is not that easy. At first, the communities will have many questions and face a few difficulties. To help the hromadas, the Charitable Fund “Right to Protection” (R2P) has already been providing expert support for a long time.
In 2021, within the framework of the Project “Support of the Amalgamated Territorial Communities along the contact line in the Reorganization of the Social and Administrative Services with the Decentralization Reform” the CF “Right to Protection” (R2P) has organized preliminary consultations, meetings with hromada representatives to identify the possible solutions to the problems with access to social services.
The measures were aimed at implementing and supporting changes in governance resulting from the process of decentralization while strengthening local governments, accountability, and response capacity in coordination with participants. The implementation of initiatives in communities is a logical continuation of the systematic work on expert support of communities to establish a system of social services in target communities.
In 2022, the CF “Right to Protection” (R2P) continues to support community development initiatives aimed at improving access to social services.
«In 2022, we will be able to help the hromadas establish the financial base to be able to improve the access to social services. The Project envisages the implementation of 5 initiatives in each community, the budget of each initiative is equivalent to 5000 US dollars in hryvnias. It is also planned to provide social workers with tablets, laptops, and uniforms so that they will become more recognizable so that people in the community will be able to recognize them,»
– tells Volodymyr Oleksenko, IDP Protection Coordinator at the CF “Right to Protection” (R2P).
«Recently we have held meetings with all the communities participating in the Project in eastern Ukraine. We have discussed the results of last year’s work, and outlined the plans for our future cooperation,»
— says Oleh Lyubimov, Decentralization Coordinator at the R2P.
“As the employees and managers of the CMA’s receive more powers, the more they feel responsible for the fulfillment of the functions these powers are related to. Yet, at the same time, they lack certain qualifications and special skills. We have seen their need for professional support, including assistance that our experts can provide. Therefore, the R2P’s task is to help them organize a functioning social services system, to be able to provide aid to all residents of their communities.”
– adds Oleh.
In total, five communities are participating in the Project. In the Donetsk region it is Marinska, Svitlodarska, Sartanska hromadas, and in the Luhansk region – Hirska and Nizhnyoteplivska.
«In the Luhansk region, we have specially selected those communities where elections did not take place, where there were no district centers before. From the very beginning, these communities did not have a social service network. They had to start from scratch,»,
– said Olena Hrekova, head of the Severodonetsk office of the Charitable Fund “Right to Protection” (R2P).
For example, in 2021 the experts of the R2P have been actively involved in the establishment of the Department of Social Protection of the Population in the Svitlodarska Civil-Military Administration (CMA). As a result, the Center for Social Services has been reformed. In the Nyzhnyoteplivska village hromada, the Department of Social Protection and the Center for Social Services have also been created. Employees of the community needed assistance in drafting legal and organizational documents.
«Further work will be focused on determining the hromada’s social needs – this will be a completely new work area. Based on this information, communities can apply for subsidies for the development of these social services, as well as to determine further activities to expand the new ones.»,
told Natalia Gubareva, a lawyer of the CF “Right to Protection” (R2P).
During the meetings, our experts have also told the community leaders about the most important instruments of financial support in 2022 from the Government of Ukraine.
Alina Hubar, the Deputy Head of the Nyzhnyoteplivska village hromada, shared her impressions about the cooperation:
«At first, we did not believe in ourselves, that we would find funds, that we would find specialists, without the help of the R2P it would have been difficult for us to even take the first step – to start the registration of the Department of Social Protection and the Center for Social Services. We are very grateful because you have opened our eyes to what we can do, you gave us confidence. Cause one man does not make a team. And most importantly, you have provided us with extremely effective tools!»,
Today we present the January 2022report on the conditions for crossing the Entry-Exit Checkpoints (EECPs) and International/Interstate Border Crossing Points (IBCPs). The report is based on the data collected during the monitoring of the situation at the EECPs in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (eastern Ukraine), as well as on the IBCPs “Milove” and “Hoptivka” on the border with Russia.
The purpose of the survey is to gather information on the difficulties and problems faced by the citizens, who are traveling across the Non-Government Controlled Areas (NGCA) and Government-Controlled Areas through EECPs on the contact line in eastern Ukraine, and IBCPs on the border with Russia.
As in previous months, crossing the contact line remained possible only through two of the seven Exit-Entry Crossing Points (EECPs): Novotroitske EECP in Donetsk Oblast and Stanytsia Luhanska EECP in Luhansk Oblast . 94 per cent of all people crossing between the GCA and the NGCA in January did so through Stanytsia Luhanska EECP. This is due to the fact that Novotroitske EECP operates only two days a week, with additional permits required by de facto authorities for crossing.
As in January 2021, the number of people crossing the contact line reached a low point in January 2022. The low level of crossing is most explained by the winter holidays.
On 24 January 2022, the SSU website has been revamped and is ready to register new crossing permits. From November 2021, people without prior registration on the SSU website were unable to register to obtain permits to cross the contact line.
The resumption of the SSU website and abolition of the requirement to install the Vdoma app on 29 December 2021 for people crossing EECPs to GCA considerably made the process easier and less stressful.
COVID-19 vaccination has become one of the reasons to cross EECPs since February 2021. A vaccination centre opened at Novotroitske EECP on 21 January. As a result, people crossing the contact line can be vaccinated at both of the EECPs operating, free of charge.
GOING AROUND THE CONTACT LINE:
January 2022 IBCP Survey Snapshot
In January, the R2P team identified that some people were not informed that the Vdoma app still needs to be downloaded by people crossing through IBCPs. At Hoptivka IBCP, people carried out PCR tests on their own in the neutral zone in order to avoid observation or other measures. 28 per cent of the people interviewed by R2P at Milove and Hoptivka IBCPs were over the age of 60, who often face difficulties installing the Vdoma app or paying for Covid-19 tests. Thus, from Milove IBCP, 15 older people were sent for observation. UNHCR and R2P will seek solutions to strengthen the dissemination of information on existing requirements.
In January, most respondents were residents of Donetsk NGCA (51 per cent), compared to 16 per cent who were residents of Luhansk NGCA. Furthermore, for the third consecutive month, there were no residents of Luhanska NGCA among respondents at Hoptivka IBCP. The reason for the higher number of residents from Donetsk NGCA is that Novotroitske EECP in Donetsk oblast is only open two times per week.
The construction of reception and sanitary facilities for people crossing the border through IBCP in Milove has been completed with UNHCR support.
The report is based on the results of a survey, regularly conducted by the specialists of the Charitable Fund “Right to Protection” (R2P) since June 2017 at Entry-Exit Checkpoints in the Donetsk (Mayorske, Marinka, Hnutove and Novotroitske) and Luhansk (Stanytsia Luhanska) oblasts. Since August 2021 the survey is also conducted at the “Milove” IBCP (Luhansk oblast) and the “Hoptivka” IBCP (Kharkiv oblast).
The survey is part of the monitoring of violations of the rights of the population affected by the conflict and is conducted within the project “Advocacy, Protection and Legal Assistance to the Internally Displaced Population” implemented by the R2P with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The purpose of a survey is to explore the reasons and concerns of those traveling from the NGCA to the GCA, as well as conditions and risks associated with crossing the ‘contact line’ and state border through EECPs and IBCPs. The information collected in the survey helps identify protection needs, gaps, and trends, and provides an evidentiary basis for the advocacy efforts.
In Autumn 2020 Armen contacted the Kharkiv office of the CF “Right to Protection” (R2P). His hope faded a long time ago since he had tried to get a passport or at least some document proving his identity and status for many years already.
Life without a passport and/or documents
The man signed agreements with several lawyers, yet all their attempts were unsuccessful. When he was in total despair, the State Migration Service of Ukraine advised him to turn to the CF “Right to Protection” (R2P).
Armen’s life story is full of troubles. Armenian by nationality, he was born in 1958 in Azerbaijan (back then – a soviet republic, – ed. note).
He grew up there, graduated from school, received a passport of a citizen of the USSR, and served in the Soviet Army. He was stationed in the Zhytomyr region and has since fallen in love with Ukraine, where he then moved into later in his life. After the Army, he worked in Azerbaijan, then graduated from the Kharkiv Fire and Technical School in 1985. Three years later he married and became a father of his daughter. But in 1990, due to ethnopolitical conflict, the family was forced to flee their home and, after a series of relocations, in January 1991 settled in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
A long time Armen lived with a passport of a citizen of the USSR. His wife and daughter received Ukrainian citizenship and passports, and a son was born… But Armen did not have time to obtain the passport of Ukraine, the country of which he always considered himself a citizen: in the early 2000s, all his documents were stolen. For about 20 years Armen has been living without documents.
Lawyers get to work
Analyzing the actual life circumstances described by Armen, the lawyer of the CF “Right to Protection” (R2P), Oksana Zhelanova, came to the conclusion that it is not technically possible to establish Armen’s Ukraine’s citizenship. Therefore, the man is a stateless person and can acquire Ukrainian citizenship by territorial origin on the basis of permanent residence in Ukraine until August 24, 1991.
Since the procedure of documenting stateless persons in Ukraine had not been working at the time of Armen’s application to the R2P, it was decided to use the waiting time and prepare for acquiring Ukrainian citizenship by territorial origin. After making a number of lawyer’s inquiries and gathering the necessary evidence, the lawyer prepared a statement to the court to establish the fact of Armen’s residence on the territory of Ukraine until August 24, 1991. In May 2021, the decision of the Zhovtnevyi District Court of Kharkiv established this fact.
Stateless Determination Procedure: A New Hope
When the procedure of documenting stateless persons was finally approved by the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine № 317 and started working in full force, specialists of the Novobavarskyi branch of the State Migration Service of Ukraine in the Kharkiv region successfully accepted an application from Armen to recognize him as a stateless person.
There is still a long way to go: for the SMS it’s lots of hard work, for Armen – waiting. But Armen, who holds the first official document received in Ukraine, is already seeing the light ahead and hopes to hold the coveted passport of a country that sheltered his family, which he has considered home for many years, by the end of the year.
We will accompany him on this difficult path to the realization of a dream, and express our sincere gratitude to the employees of the State Migration Service of Ukraine – Iryna Kalyna, Tetyana Korobkova, and Natalia Kushnir for their high competence and human-centered approach in addressing the issue of statelessness.