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12.10.20

CF «Right to Protection» and E-Governance for Accountability and Participation have officially launched their first common development – chatbot for Internally Displaced Persons. It was presented yesterday, on the 8-th of October 2020 at the conference in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Main feature of the bot is to provide people with ability to get legal information and assistance they require 24/7, from anywhere. Chatbot was developed for not just the IDPs, but for all the people affected by the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, as well as the residents of temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and boundary territories, controlled by the Government of Ukraine.

The instrument is available on two platforms, popular in Ukraine – Viber and Telegram. During the press conference, Snaver Seithalilev, the Deputy Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine on Digital Development, Digital Transformations and Digitization noted that the new service will be very useful and easy-to-use because it requires no installation of any other software except one of the messengers. Daria Lysenko, the Project Manager at «Right to Protection» mentioned the main advantages of the instrument in comparison to other similar legal aid services as it’s availability and convenience, that it’s made by experts in the Field of Law, with an option to contact a real person for case if the problem is not listed in the bot and also the ability to collect analytics that might be helpful to get insights of the problems people face, as well as to be able to report these problems to the government institutions.

Anyone can test-drive and use the «Legal Assistant for IDPs» chatbot by scanning the QR code on the picture below, or just following the links for the preferred messenger (VIBER / TELEGRAM)

The recording of the launch event is available on YouTube

The project is implemented jointly with the e-Governance for Accountability and Participation (EGAP) Program, implemented by the East Europe Foundation and the Innovabridge Foundation in partnership with the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine and funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

18.09.20

Today we present the Mid-year (January – June 2020) EECP Survey Report. This report provides the results of the survey conducted at all five Entry-Exit Checkpoints (EECPs) with the non-government-controlled area (NGCA) in the first half of 2020. Due to quarantine restrictions, the report contains survey data from 1 January to 17 March.

Highlights of the report:

  • With the introduction of quarantine, since 17 to 22 March people could cross only in the direction of their residence registration – NGCA or GCA. On 22 March, EECPs suspended operations, and slightly over 14,000 persons have received permission to cross since then.
  • On 9 June Ukraine announced the reopening of EECPs in Donetsk oblast on 10 June, after closing them for almost three months. Meanwhile, by the end of June, the other four EECPs remain closed with limited exceptions, since the de facto authorities of NGCA side have banned the crossing of contact line on the NGCA side. However, since the beginning of quarantine there have been several so-called “corridors” at Stanytsia Luhanska EECP (Luhanska oblast) according to pre-agreed lists.
  • Admission to higher education institutions for students from NGCA has been heavily affected by quarantine restrictions. Over 300 students have been allowed to cross the contact line while about one thousand have applied for passing an External Independent testing (EIT) since 16 June. The recently adopted law seeks to improve the situation: children from NGCA will be able to enroll in Ukrainian universities without passing EIT and have the opportunity to study in all universities.
  • People who crossed to GCA faced numerous difficulties with installing the app “Act at Home” on their phone. In particular, people with older phones and/or Kyivstar sim-cards were troubled a lot with technical issues. Insufficient Wi-Fi at Novotroitske also complicated the issue. Besides, representatives of State Border Guard Service (SBGS) at Stanytsia Luhanska EECP required that people confirm their place of self-isolation and upload a reference photo directly at the EECP that led to geolocation issues later. People who could not install the app have been placed in an SES tent to resolve those issues the following day, or they have been sent for observation.
  • In turn, people from Donetsk NGCA are supposed to have residence registration (“propiska”) in GCA to be eligible to cross the checkpoint. Also, people are required to sign a document of non-return to the NGCA side until the end of the quarantine there. Additionally, people crossing to NGCA are to be sent for a 2-week observation without any alternative options of self-isolation regime.
  • The implementation of coronavirus-related quarantine procedures caused a dramatic reduction in crossings. People in NGCA are unable to receive their pensions, social benefits, birth/death certificates, buy drugs, etc. Residents of GCA who left for any personal issues on the NGCA side before the introduction of the quarantine, also cannot return home. Family unity and access to the place of residence or place of treatment are also issues for a number of people.
  • In the period 1 January to 17 March, 67,134 vulnerable elderly persons were provided with transport support at Stanytsia Luhanska EECP by Proliska’s electric vehicle. As of 17 March, transportation services were suspended due to the quarantine measures. Most services suspended their work between 17-20 March at all EECPs: the Coordination Group representatives, INGO medical representatives, and transportation including a social bus at Stanytsia Luhanska. In June, e-vehicle services resumed, the total number of people transported in six months was 69,405.
  • R2P monitors reported five fatalities that took place on the GCA side in the first half of 2020 and according to information from public sources one fatality on the NGCA side. The preliminary causes of death in most cases were related to heart problems.

EECP Survey Report is available in English and Ukrainian.

23.06.20

The report «Crossing the contact line» provides the results of the survey conducted at all five Entry-Exit Checkpoints (EECPs) with NGCA in 2019.

The objective of the survey is to explore the motivations and concerns of the civilians travelling between the non-government-controlled areas (NGCA) and the government-controlled areas (GCA), as well as the conditions and risks associated with crossing the contact line through EECPs.

Highlights:

  • In comparison with 2018, the share of respondents who did not raise any concerns related to the crossing process increased at all EECPs except Novotroitske. The improvement may be related to the reconstruction of EECPs, which sufficiently improved the waiting conditions: installation of waiting terminals, passport control booths, toilets, and sheds.
  • 1,363 respondents (5%) mentioned cases of not being able to cross the contact line in the six months prior to their interview. The vast majority 1,086 (3,98%) of these cases were caused by the lack of permits in the SBGS database.
  • 38 fatalities reportedly took place at EECPs in 2019, including 16 deaths on NGCA side (information from social media and OSCE reports) for which the data cannot be confirmed. The preliminary causes of death in most cases in GCA were related to heart diseases.

The report is available in English and Ukrainian.

The survey is a part of the monitoring of violations of rights of the conflict-affected population within the framework of the project «Advocacy, Protection and Legal Assistance to the Internally Displaced Population of Ukraine» implemented by CF «Right to protection» in partnership with and with financial support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

18.06.20

During the period of quarantine restrictions, thousands of people have been trapped on both sides of the contact line. Most of those people who had justified reasons and all the necessary supporting documents for crossing, could not pass home, to their families, work, etc. Despite the efforts from different human rights organizations to help people to enjoy the freedom of movement very few managed to cross.

On 9 June, the Headquarters of the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) reported that from 10 June two out of five EECPs, namely Stanytsia Luhanska (Luhansk oblast) and Marinka (Donetsk oblast), would resume their work.

However, as of 15 June, the problem of freedom of movement across the contact line remains unresolved:

  1. in Donetsk oblast EECPs operate only from the government-controlled area (GCA) side;
  2. in Luhansk oblast the passage was allowed only on 13–15 June according to the lists, which order of formation remains opaque and incomprehensible to the public;
  3. there is no information from the official authorities of Ukraine on the prospects of resumption of normal operation of the EECPs and the progress of negotiations with the Russian Federation and the de facto authorities on the non-government-controlled area (NGCA) on this issue.

It is also worth noting that during this period in Stanytsia Luhanska, 34 children, who intended to pass the trial external assessment on 15 June, passed through the EECP. But the Cabinet of Ministers canceled its attendance-based conducting at the last minute

Detailed overview of the events at EECPs in the period from 10 to 14 June you may find in CF “Right To Protection” digest, which is available in English and Ukrainian

23.04.20

In 2019 alone, more than 40 deaths were recorded at the entry-exit checkpoints (EECPs) in Donetsk. In order to address this, it is necessary to urgently review the healthcare system and modify the medical infrastructure to suit the particular necessities of the region. This was discussed during the presentation of the report “Investigating the Conditions of Access to Care at EECPs.” The report was prepared by experts of the Charitable Fund Right to Protection (R2P) based on the monitoring results of the five checkpoints operating on the line of contact. 

According to Anastasia Odintsova, Advocacy Coordinator at R2P, the reason for conducting this complex research was concern about the statistical results obtained from Lugansk and Donetsk regions. For example, in 2018, more than 50 people were killed either by shelling at the EECPs or by health problems exacerbated while crossing the line of contact, and another 38 people died in the first nine months of 2019.

Only one of the above mentioned EECPs is actively involved in the provision of medical assistance to the civilian population through the use of public services. In the other cases, access to medical assistance came entirely from non-governmental and international organizations, as well as volunteers. Thanks to the efforts of groups like these, many tragedies have been avoided. However, this does not solve the systemic problem-one which should come under the responsibility of the state. 

Iryna Pesko, Legal Analyst at R2P, said during the presentation that, of the approximately 130,000 people who cross through the EECPs every month, the majority are over 60 years of age. For many of them, the journey across the contact line is a severe aggravator of health conditions: “Every day, people seek the advice and assistance of monitors and medical tents at the EECPs because this is the only available alternative to public health care…In Ukraine, we have no precedent or previous experiences to draw a standard operating procedure from. This is a problem that needs to be addressed comprehensively-taking into account the particularities of each potential patient, the weaknesses of local government bodies along the line of contact, and the obvious consequences of the destroyed infrastructure of medical facilities in both the government-controlled and non-controlled territories of Ukraine.”

A separate point of discussion was the lack of on-site medical infrastructure and the lack of adequate staffing for emergency medical centers. According to Valery Panteyev, a medical doctor at Première Urgence Internationale (PUI), their specialists have been providing medical assistance to people at the EECPs since 2016. But the lack of essential medical infrastructure is more evident now despite efforts of physicians, and despite the numerous instances when PUI representatives saved lives. This is a problem that can only be addressed at the state level. 

Inna Golovanchuk, Adviser to the Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine, stressed the need for a unified approach and for the provision of medical care at all EECPs: “There are already principled decisions being made at the EECPs along the administrative border with [non-government-controlled areas], and we’re in the process of developing a way to provide medical care to the population at the EECPs and along the line of contact.” She emphasized that the state, as a guarantor of the right to access to medical care, should accept the responsibility from the non-governmental and international organizations that have been providing medical assistance at the EECPs in recent years. 

At the same time, in Ms. Golovanchuk’s opinion, given the experience gained by these organizations, it is advisable to consider the possibility of developing a mechanism for the state to contract these organizations to continue their work and define key performance indicators: “A number of formalities-in particular the uncertainty surround the chain of command and the optimal funding of the EECPs–will be eliminated by systematic regulatory work to unify the structure and define the complex of services at the EECPs. This will help meet the needs of the population as soon as possible at the EECPs,” she concluded.

As a result of the presentation and discussion, the participants plan to form a coordination group in the near future with the involvement of representatives of the relevant authorities and, in particular, the Ministry of Health and certain NGOs, to formulate further steps to overcome the identified problems.

The report is available in English and Ukrainian.

The study was carried out under the auspices of the ‘Provision of multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance to the conflict-affected population of Eastern Ukraine’ project, implemented by Right to Protection and with financial support from the European Commission through the EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid’s ACCESS Consortium.

15.04.20

Please find the report ‘Crossing the contact line’. It is based on data collected during visits of our colleagues to the five entry-exit checkpoints (EECPs) in March 2020. More statistical data can be found on the Eastern Ukraine Checkpoint Monitoring Online Dashboard.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • As part of measures aimed at stopping the spread of the COVID-19, the JFO Headquarters limited EECP operation in two steps. Since 17 March, people could cross only in the direction of their residence registration (“propiska”) – NGCA or GCA. In some cases, the SBGS allowed crossing if a person had an urgent issue (family separation, critical medical condition, etc.). Since 22 March, GCA EECPs fully suspended the passing of people while de-facto authorities did it a day earlier. Therefore, some people passed the GCA EECP but were not allowed to enter on the NGCA side and had to return.
  • Due to the restrictions, some people could not cross the contact line despite having sufficient reasons for crossing and relevant residence registration. As a result, on all EECPs by the end of March people have been stranded for days, in many cases without the financial means for temporary accommodation. The most urgent situation occurred at Stanytsia Luhanska EECP: over 40 people have been waiting on the GCA side, unable to cross the contact line. Meanwhile, people waiting at Maiorske EECP, were provided with accommodation and food by local authorities and NGOs.
  • From the end of February and throughout March due to the threat of the spread of COVID-19 SBGS servicemen had continued to carry out temperature screening of the crossing people at all EECPs before they were closed. All cases of temperature detection of 37.9 or higher and severe acute respiratory syndrome symptoms were recorded by SBGS servicemen, people received reminders about the need for self-isolation.
  • During the period 1-17 of March, 18,077 vulnerable elderly persons were provided with transportation support at Stanitsa Luhanska EECP by NGO Proliska electric vehicle. As of 17 March, transportation services were suspended due to imposing the quarantine measures. Most services suspended their work at EECPs since 17-20 March at all EECPs: the Coordination Group representatives, iNGO medical representatives, and transportation, including a social bus at Stanytsia Luhanska.

More information you may find in a document. It’s available in English and Ukrainian.

The report is based on the results of a survey conducted by R2P at the five EECPs to enter the NGCA and administered on a regular basis since June 2017. The survey is a part of the monitoring of violations of rights of conflict-affected populations within the framework of the project ‘Advocacy, Protection and Legal Assistance to IDPs’ implemented by R2P, with the support of UNHCR. The purpose of the survey is to explore reasons and concerns of those traveling from the NGCA to the GCA, as well as conditions and risks associated with crossing the line of contact through EECPs. The information collected in the survey helps identify protection needs, gaps, and trends, and provides an evidentiary basis for advocacy efforts.

19.03.20

Events are moving fast lately. This is particularly true at the EECPs. It’s notable that new constraints have been added for crossing the line of contact:

As of midnight on March 16th, and continuing through April 3rd (with possible extension at a later time), crossing from the temporarily occupied territories by persons without registration demonstrating permanent residence in Government Controlled Areas (GCA) has been halted. Our monitors are working, as always, to help people sort out the complications that arise as a result of this order at the EECPs.

EECP Stanytsia Luhanska

16.03.2020. A woman with stage 4 cancer, who was discharged from the hospital in Luhansk to spend her remaining days at home, had an issue with crossing. She was trying to cross from NGCA to GCA, where she is a registered resident, but she did not have one of the documents (permit to cross the contact line.) No one knew how to proceed. However, luckily, a relevant service provider (Coordination Group – CG) who could issue a clearance was present, and so they let her pass. But in the future, CG will be only available by email in case of unusual circumstances.

EECP Novotroitske

16.03.2020. A woman was heading to NGCA with her great-grandchild without having power of attorney from the child’s parents. The child had been staying with her for a week, and the mother had already gone back to NGCA. When they later tried to bring the girl home, the woman was not allowed to cross because she didn’t have the proper paperwork. The mother also could not cross to get her daughter because of the quarantine. The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine made a concession and allowed the child to cross through alone and meet her parents on the NGCA side of the checkpoint.

18.02.20

Today we present R2P report ‘Crossing the contact line’’. It is based on data collected during 35 visits to the five entry-exit checkpoints (EECPs) in January 2020. More statistical data can be found here.

Highlights:

  • An 84-year-old man died at Stanytsia Luhanska EECP in the morning of January 21. The preliminary cause of death is unknown. According to the information from public sources, a woman of 75 years old died at “Horlivka” checkpoint in NGCA on January 4.
  • The problem of people being unable to return to the NGCA due to being listed in the debtor’s register is growing more serious and widespread. In some cases, people remain in the register even after having paid all their debts because of bureaucratic delays and discrepancies. The issue forces people to stay in the GCA, which leads to additional expenditures, problems with employment (people may be fired for long absence), temporary family separation and other issues. R2P monitors reported that the average number of such individuals ranges from 1 per week to 5 per day, depending on the EECP.
  • In January, minors over 14 years old without Ukrainian passports had issues while crossing the contact line due to CMU Resolution №815. Minors in this situation, along with their parents or caregivers were transferred to the national police staff at the EECP to file a document, confirming their intention to apply for a passport and explaining why the child did not obtain it before attempting to cross. The State Migration Service certificate of application for passport is required for them to return to NGCA.
  • The share of complaints regarding long lines sharply decreased from 53% to 21%. It was most likely caused by a significant decrease in the number of crossings.
  • During the month of January, 25,550 vulnerable elderly persons were provided with transportation support at Stanytsia Luhanska EECP by NGO Proliska electric vehicle. According to the monitoring observations, the estimated number of civilians transported by the bus, provided by Luhansk Oblast Administration, was around 125,000.

The document is available in English and in Ukrainian languages.

17.02.20

On February 17, human rights activists presented an alternative report in Kyiv on Ukraine’s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that studies observance of the conflict-affected people’s rights in Ukraine.

The UN Committee is starting its 67th session in Geneva, during which the Ukrainian government’s seventh report on the Covenant’s observance will be examined. The reporting procedure involved preparation of questions for Ukraine by the Committee in 2018, followed by the government’s replies given in 2019. Simultaneously, an alternative report was presented to the Committee by a Coalition of NGOs that deal with conflict-related issues and help victims of the conflict.

We focused on victims of the conflict, emphasizing that this group requires special attention from both the state and the international community. We also did our best to provide specific recommendations that should help improve people’s lives and finally resolve systemic problems,”  says Alyona Lunyova, advocacy manager at the ZMINA Human Rights Center.

According to Anastasiya Odintsova, legal analyst of the charitable fund Right to Protection, the issues of employment and housing for IDPs have remained unresolved for almost six years due to the lack of holistic vision and proper funding for strategic areas.

Thanks to the efforts of NGOs, a court decision delivered in 2018 abolished the provisions of the Cabinet of Ministers Resolution no. 365 that forced IDPs to undergo inspections at their place of residence when they applied for social benefits and pensions. However, the practice of such inspections is still in place. There are also widespread issues of non-compliance with courts that order the authorities to resume payments to IDPs whose pensions had been suspended earlier after an inspection. The government’s debt in these cases has already reached UAH 600 million,” says Anastasiya Odintsova.

Another important issue concerns integration of IDPs into local communities. Despite the adoption of the Electoral Code of Ukraine in late 2019, which provides for the possibility of voting in local elections for IDPs, the latter are not considered members of the territorial communities they live in and are thus unable to fully enjoy their political rights, and it’s the political engagement of IDPs that can help not just with their successful integration, but also with the inclusion of IDPs’ needs during the development and implementation of local programs. Such is the opinion of Maria Krasnenko, lawyer of the Civil Holding GROUP OF INFLUENCE.

Much of the report’s focus is on residents of Ukraine’s temporarily occupied territories.

“One of the principles enshrined in the Covenant is progressive implementation of socio-economic rights. This means that Ukraine has an obligation to take all necessary steps to allow residents of the occupied territories to exercise their rights without discrimination. This includes access to documents, pensions, employment, education, social and administrative services,” says Hanna Dudinska, lawyer of the charitable fund Stabilization Support Services.

Equally urgent are issues related to the protection of children, particularly the ineffectual status of a child affected by war and armed conflicts, as well as the absence of a strategic level document on these issues in the country.

Olga Skrypnyk, head of the board of the Crimean Human Rights Group, says: “We would like to draw particular attention to the consequences of Russia’s militarization of children in Crimea – the destruction of their Ukrainian identity, the inability to choose one’s citizenship, the large-scale propaganda of the service in the Russian armed forces. Crimean children are able to get education in Ukrainian language only in the GCA, and these children are also facing a number of other unresolved issues. Thus, they can obtain certificates of basic and complete secondary education only if they intend to study in Ukrainian universities. Otherwise it’s impossible, which prevents them from getting a job or vocational education in the future.”

The Coalition of human rights defenders addresses the UN Committee in the alternative report, asking it to include the following recommendations in its final observations:

  • start working on a new IDP Integration Strategy 2021-2025 and an action plan on its implementation;
  • develop national policy on the exercise of housing rights by IDPs and an action plan on its implementation as part of the national policy on IDP integration;
  • separate applying for pensions and social benefits that are not related to internal displacement from the need to obtain IDP certificates;
  • introduce a mechanism for paying pensions to residents of the occupied territories, including to low mobility people and people with disabilities;
  • develop a concept of education for residents of the temporarily occupied territories that would take into account their situation, etc.

The Report may be downloaded in English and Ukrainian.

For reference: the authors of the alternative report for the UN Committee “Ensuring the observance of socio-economic rights of the conflict-affected population in Ukraine” are experts of NGOs Donbas SOS, Crimea SOS, Civil Holding GROUP OF INFLUENCE, ZMINA Human Rights Center and Crimean Human Rights Group as well as charitable funds Right to Protection, Vostok SOS and Stabilization Support Services.