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29.10.20

On September 2, 2020, the Verkhovna Rada adopted the draft Law on Administrative Procedure № 3475 dated 14.05.2020 in the first reading.  The Right to Protection Charitable Foundation considers it appropriate to provide the Committee with its analysis of the draft law and recommendations on the preparation of the draft for the second reading.

General caveats

Right to Protection CF considers that some of the project proposals are appropriate and can improve the realization of the rights and legitimate interests of individuals and legal entities in relations with the state. Such proposals should include the consolidation of the presumption of legality of actions and requirements of the person in Art. 15 of the draft, the obligation of the administrative body to collect evidence independently and not to transfer this obligation to the applicant in Art. 16 of the draft, detailing the requirements for the administrative act in Art.  67 of the draft, fixing the possibility to declare an administrative act invalid in Art. 85, etc.

In general, the creation of a unified procedure for consideration of appeals and decision-making on them can guarantee the possibility of personal protection of their rights and their timely implementation. However, the Right to Protection CF agrees with the position of the Main Scientific and Expert Department and believes that if the draft is adopted as a law, there may be negative consequences for a large number of existing procedures and administrative services that cannot be implemented within the general administrative procedure.

Risks to the procedure for processing an application for recognition as a refugee or as a person in need of complementary protection

1. The current legal framework, including a number of international treaties, enshrines the special vulnerability of this category of foreigners and stateless persons as asylum seekers, in particular, due to forced relocation, difficulty to obtain the documents proving their identity, low level of education, lack of sufficient funds to ensure a decent standard of living, experience of physical and psychological suffering, lack of language knowledge of the country, where they apply for protection.

Therefore, in order to ensure the rights of these persons and to prevent discrimination, the legislation establishes certain guarantees that are used by asylum seekers during administrative proceedings.  Among the most important guarantees of access to international protection, enshrined in current legislation, are:

  • the procedure for submitting an application by a person who is illiterate or has physical disabilities;
  • the right to submit an application and documents substantiating the need for protection, in the native language and the obligation of the State Migration Service of Ukraine (SMSU) and other state bodies to provide an interpreter;
  • the procedure for submitting an application by a person who has illegally crossed the state border of Ukraine;
  • the procedure for action of the SMSU and other state bodies in the case of applying for protection of a child separated from his family;
  • the right to submit an application by a person who does not have identity documents or such documents are false, and the procedure for further consideration of such an application;
  • an exhaustive list of grounds for deciding to refuse to accept an application for recognition as a refugee or a person in need of complementary protection, etc.

However, the draft Law does not take into account the special vulnerability of asylum seekers. Thus, Article 7 of the draft stipulates that foreigners and stateless persons use guarantees during administrative proceedings, but these guarantees are not enshrined and listed separately, which indicates their declarative nature.

2. The draft significantly expands the range of opportunities for a person to protect their rights during administrative proceedings, in particular, the right to submit petitions, an exhaustive list of which is directly enshrined in the draft, access to case materials, the right to submit explanations and comments, the right to be heard by the administrative body before decision in the case is taken, the right to initiate and participate in hearings in the case, etc., but due to the special vulnerability of asylum seekers for most of them the realization of these rights is not possible without representation.

At the same time, it should be noted that the draft does not provide the amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Free Legal Aid”, and under current regulation access to legal aid for asylum seekers is complicated: 1) the range of asylum seekers entitled to such assistance is  significantly narrowed;  2) a clear procedure and procedure for attracting or appointing a lawyer from the free legal aid center are not defined;  3) the obligation of the bodies of the State Migration Service of Ukraine (SMSU) to inform the relevant center for the provision of free legal aid about the need for such assistance to asylum seekers is not provided;  4) the term for consideration of an application for the provision of free legal aid is twice as long as the term for appealing against decisions of the SMSU, etc.

Therefore, in case of adoption of the draft Law as is without any required amendments, applicants for protection will be deprived of the opportunity to exercise their rights during the administrative proceedings.

3. One of the guarantees of access to international protection, as mentioned above, is to enshrine in law an exhaustive list of grounds for a decision to refuse to accept an application for recognition as a refugee or a person in need of complementary protection.  In contrast, according to the draft, the possibilities of the administrative body to refuse to consider the application are significantly expanded.  For example, Article 42 provides for a list of applications that are not subject to review, and Article 40 provides for the application to be left without motion or withdrawn from review. This may limit access of asylum seekers to international protection, thus violating Ukraine’s international obligations.

 4. The particular vulnerability of asylum seekers requires a special approach to the proof and evaluation of the application for protection.  This approach is explained in p.  196, 197 Guidelines on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.  Instead, the requirements for evidence and proof set out in the draft do not take into account these recommendations, which may lead to a violation of the rights of asylum seekers.

Risks to the procedure for processing of an application for recognition as a stateless person

The Law of Ukraine “On the Legal Status of Foreigners and Stateless Persons” stipulates that the procedure for consideration of applications for recognition as a stateless person shall be established by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine (within three months from the date Law enters into the force). The draft contradicts this provision of the Law, as it tries to regulate in particular the procedure for consideration of applications for recognition as a stateless person, without specifying this procedure in the list of exceptions from the scope of the draft. Instead, a significant number of project provisions are inconsistent with the procedure for recognition as a stateless person, some directly contradicting it.

1. Part three of Article 19 of the draft Law requires the applicant to translate documents provided in a foreign language, contrary to Article 6-1 of this Law, which obliges the state body to translate documents provided by the applicant when applying for recognition as stateless person.

2. Although Article 36 of the draft provides a form of application, which includes oral (including submitted in a personal application, which is added to the case file via transcribing it by an official), does not take into account the possibility of application by an illiterate person or person with disabilities. Instead, the second paragraph of the first part of Article 6-1 of this Law indicates the procedure for filing an application by such a person. In addition, as the practice of the Right to Protection Charitable Foundation shows, among undocumented persons with uncertain citizenship who meet the criteria for determining as stateless, there are often illiterate people who have not received an education.

3. This Law stipulates that if a stateless person has no documents that are required by Law, after his / her written consent was received, relatives, neighbors or other persons (at least three) will be interviewed to confirm the fact of statelessness (paragraph three of the first part of Article 6-1 of the draft Law). The draft provides the status of “case review facilitators” to the aforementioned people, but it cannot be taken into account that the interview is conducted only with the written consent of the applicant. In addition, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine will establish the procedure of interviewing persons during the consideration of an application for recognition as a stateless person.

4. Article 33 of the draft provides the possibility of initiating proceedings by an administrative body, which has the potential to yield a positive impact on the process of identifying undocumented stateless persons. However, consideration of the application for recognition as stateless is not provided by the above-mentioned law in any other way than through the application of the person.

5. The procedure for suspension and resumption of administrative proceedings provided in Article 60 of the draft is also not consistent with the procedure for recognition as a stateless person, defined by Law.  The draft introduces the possibility to suspend the consideration of the application at the request of the applicant, instead it is not able to take into account the procedure for termination and resumption of the application for recognition as stateless person (in particular at the time of consideration of the application for protection in Ukraine, as in the second article 6-1 of the said Law).

6. The administrative appeal introduced in the draft (Articles 74-81) will not be available to the applicant for recognition as stateless person, as the draft Law provides only the possibility of judicial appeal. The extension of the application certificate for recognition as a stateless person is provided only for the time of the court appeal.

Summary and recommendations

Thus, the special vulnerability of asylum seekers and persons applying for recognition as stateless is not taken into account in the process of administrative proceedings in the draft Law. There are no separate guarantees for these categories. In the process of exercising the rights during the administrative proceedings proposed in the draft, both asylum seekers and stateless persons will obviously face significant difficulties. In fact, rights will remain declarative for them.

Based on the above, we recommend to add paragraphs 6 and 7 of the following content to the part 2 of Article 1 of the draft law:

6) submission and consideration of an application for recognition as a refugee or a person in need of complementary protection, decision-making on this application and its appeal, adoption and appeal of a decision on loss and deprivation of refugee status and additional protection and cancellation of a decision on recognition as a refugee or a person needs additional protection;

 7) consideration of the application for recognition as a stateless person in accordance with the Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine Concerning Recognition as a Stateless Person”.

28.10.20

The beneficiary of the Slovyansk Office of the Right to Protection Charitable Foundation, together with our lawyer came through a difficult and long way to obtain a passport of a citizen of Ukraine for the first time in his life.

This was the whole process: renewal of lost documents, courts, confirmation of citizenship. The final step in this case was to obtain a passport, the man had to apply to the State Migration Service of Ukraine (SMSU) in Bakhmut and provide all the documents collected within two years.

But a few days before the appointed date an accident happened to a 66-year-old man – one of his legs stopped functioning, so he lost the ability to move independently, even with a stick. Our beneficiary did not have special funds, and could not buy or receive assistance free of charge due to lack of a passport. So, as of Monday, the lawyer had to look for ways to take the man from the Chasiv Yar town (Bakhmut district) to Bakhmut and help him climb to the third floor of the SMSU department, that is not equipped for people with limited mobility and people with disabilities. Given the situation with CoVID-19, it was difficult to find transport to relocate the man, as most organizations now do not provide social support with their own transport. The search took almost two days.

The Proliska NGO responded to the request for assistance, temporarily not carrying out transportation due to CoVID-19, but they found a volunteer who took the man to the Bakhmut SMSU. A neighbor of our beneficiary also responded, who, despite the working day, accompanied him from the apartment to the Migration Service and back. In three weeks the man will have to visit the SMSU again and it is unknown what difficulties he will deal with next time.

Today, none of the departments of the State Migration Service in the north of Donetsk region, with which the representatives of the Right to Protection CF worked, are properly equipped or even not equipped at all for people with disabilities or with limited mobility. Some local offices are located on the second or even third floor of buildings, so people sometimes cannot get the necessary services at all.

20.10.20

On October 18, a Law that clearly defined the procedure for recognition as a stateless person in Ukraine must have come into force. In fact, this has not happened. Still-existing legal gap is a real problem for the people with whom specialists of the Right to Protection Charitable Foundation work every day. Ms. Larysa (name changed) is one of those who received legal help from our Foundation’s lawyers. Her story is the evidence of the urgent need to introduce an adequate procedure for recognition as a stateless person in Ukraine.

Larysa lost her passport as the USSR was dissolving. Consequently, she spent nearly 30 years on the verge of statelessness, and she passed her own legal non-existence on to her own four children. Her eldest son has also passed the status on to his own two children. Statelessness is generational. 

Larysa was born in a village called Kolomiya in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, but when she was young she frequently travelled around the Soviet Union because her father was in the military and he was assigned to posts across several Soviet Republics. Larysa grew up all over the USSR, but in 1987 she returned home to Ukraine, she got married, and she moved to a small town called Borodyanka in Kyiv oblast. 

In 1990, not long before the formation of an independent Ukraine, Larysa lost her passport. She made several attempts to replace it, but at that time she was met with the chaos of the collapsing Soviet system. The turbulence of that moment mixed with the already burdensome and convoluted process involved in getting a replacement passport, and so Larysa was confronted with a never-ending bureaucratic process that gave her an interminable list of things to do and documents to provide. 

At one point, she even had to contact the Estonian authorities to get proof of her prior residence there. Nevertheless, and despite her Ukrainian birth certificate and Ukrainian marriage certificate, Larysa’s attempts were rebuffed, and it was determined that she had insufficient proof of her residence in Ukraine at the time of the birth of the new nation in 1991. Interestingly enough, Larysa’s mother, who lived in Estonia at the time, managed to replace her own Soviet passport with a new, Ukrainian one. This, ultimately, served no aid in helping Larysa’s cause, however. 

For decades, Larysa was stateless. As a result of her legal nonexistence, her challenges multiplied. She couldn’t legally work because a passport is a necessary condition of employment; she couldn’t get government assistance because she was legally non-existent; she couldn’t get a bank account, and she couldn’t legally rent or own property. Slowly, step by step, she was removed from existence; without a passport or documentation, living a normal life was not possible. This condition of legal nonexistence was also passed on to her children, and then onto their children, and after a while, the whole family had legally disappeared everywhere. 

It wasn’t until 2018, nearly 30 years after becoming stateless, that Larysa learned about the legal services of Right to Protection. She was told about the services for stateless persons by a friend, a former stateless woman from Armenia, who had recently received her own passport with the help of R2P’s attorneys. Larysa called R2P’s offices, and she got in touch with Victoriia — the woman who would become her lawyer. 

Victoriia brought Larysa’s case to court where she demonstrated Larysa’s residence in Ukraine in 1991 through her employment certificate in Borodyanka from that time. The court accepted the evidence, and late in 2018, Larysa received her passport for the first time in nearly 30 years. The first thing she did upon getting her passport was travel to Russia to see her father and her sister in Sochi, and to visit the site where her mother had been buried years earlier. Her mother had passed away in Russia, and Larysa had never been able to see the grave. 

Since receiving her passport, Larysa has worked on those of her family too. Three of her children now have their passports, but Larysa’s eldest son, who was born in Tallinn prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, continues to have trouble getting his. He has passed his statelessness on to his own two young children as well, and they are likely to face difficulties proving their citizenship in the future. 

But the overall situation is improving, and Larysa thinks there is hope for her son and her grandchildren. With her official documentation in hand, Larysa is employed as shop assistant, and she is now qualified to receive a pension. Her advice to others who face similar hardships:

“Don’t be afraid and ask for help. The thing is you have to take the first step, and then everything will be okay. But you have to put in the effort…You have to knock on all the doors.” 

Following this link we offer you to read the analytical document on the procedure for recognition as a stateless person in Ukraine, neighboring countries and in throughout the world, prepared by the “Right to Protection” CF, with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Ukraine (UNHCR Ukraine)

16.10.20

Right to Protection office in Kyiv from 19.10.2020 to 23.10.2020 will work in a limited mode.

All legal services will be provided to clients in full in the remote way using the ZOOM, Viber, Skype services. The office is closed to visitors! Interviews and consultations scheduled for this week will be conducted online using the ZOOM, Viber, Skype service.

You can contact us at the following phones:

  • For asylum seekers: +38 093 049 52 18, +38 094 905 67 62, +38 044 337 17 62 (Write to us on Viber, WhatsApp: +38 093 038 95 62)
  • For stateless persons: +38 093 039 00 71, +38 093 038 90 31

Stay tuned for updates and be healthy!

30.08.20

Repeatedly beaten by separatists in temporarily occupied Donetsk, Hennadii refused to join the war, so they burnt his identity documents; he spent years at-risk of statelessness, and he nearly died several times. 

Hennadii Orlov now lives in Sloviansk; he recently got his Ukrainian passport. For three years leading up to this point, he was on the verge of statelessness — he had nothing to prove who he was, or even the simple fact that he was a citizen of Ukraine. The journey to get to this point — to be recognized as a citizen of Ukraine, living in Ukraine — nearly killed him. Right to Protection (R2P), a legal advocacy non-profit in Ukraine, recently helped Mr. Orlov prove his identity and re-obtain his documents and his legal status as a Ukrainian citizen. 

Hennadii is turning 40 this year. He was born in Horlivka — 90 minutes by car northeast of Donetsk City, and an area currently under occupation by the Russian backed authorities of the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic.’ Horlivka, much like most of Donetsk Oblast, is a region in decline—formerly a heart of industry and mining, and now a conflict zone pockmarked by abandoned factories that once provided steady jobs and shuttered mines that once made Donetsk the wealthiest province in the country. But Hennadii never reaped much advantage from the past industriousness of his home because his family was poor, and his parents passed away when he was young, and he has dystrophy in his right hand which makes it hard for him to perform the physical tasks required in the factories and the mines. He always struggled to find steady work, and this persistent challenge eventually led to some bad choices and a jail sentence in Luhansk. 

After serving his time, Hennadii returned home just in time to witness the pro-Russian separatists seize Horlivka’s municipal buildings at the beginning of their occupation. Then, in July of 2014, he witnessed the Battle of Horlivka in which the Ukrainian government attempted to retake the city. The battle lasted over a month and reportedly killed hundreds of civilians and devastated the city, but it made little impact on the demarcation lines. The Ukrainian government and the city’s de facto authorities signed a ceasefire on September 5th of that year, and the separatists maintained control of Horlivka. 

The Battle of Horlivka strained the capacities of the separatists, and as the war dragged on and on, it became critical for them to begin recruiting local civilians into their ranks. In the following years, Hennadii was regularly threatened and robbed by the local militias, and several times he was beaten within an inch of his life. Time and again, however, Hennadii refused to join the fighting. One night in December, 2017, the militia once again broke into his house to threaten and rob him, but this time they also burned his passport. 

After that, Hennadii’s wife and children fled to government-controlled areas where they moved in with her brother in Svyatohirsk. Hennadii couldn’t accompany them because he didn’t have the documents required to cross through the checkpoints. Instead, he says, he crossed illegally — traversing a minefield where he almost set-off a landmine. 

After getting into government-controlled areas, Hennadii travelled to Sloviansk, where he moved in with a friend. His difficulties were far from over, however, because he couldn’t get a job or receive any government assistance because he technically didn’t exist: “I didn’t have anything!” He recalls. “I only had an address in [non-government controlled Donetsk]. They were looking at me like I was a stupid person!” 

After having been on his own for years — with no work, no government assistance, and living apart from his family — Hennadii was despaired by the time he heard about Right to Protection’s legal services. He heard about them through a friend, and he immediately reached out to a local R2P office by phone. Protection Attorney Nataliia Ishchenko took him on as a client, and by the summer of 2019 they were able to obtain Hennadii’s birth certificate. Then, in April of 2020, he got his Ukrainian passport. 

Things still aren’t easy for Hennadi. His wife is working at a kindergarten in Svyatohirsk, but he can’t find work there, so he’s still in Sloviansk. He now has the documents he needs to obtain legal employment, but coronavirus added a layer of complication — very few companies are hiring, and he faces the uphill battle of getting a job after such a long employment gap. However, he remains hopeful, because his situation has improved: “I don’t know how I survived the past 3 years… If not for my friend, who helped me with housing, food and some small side-jobs, I would have probably died from hunger or have gone back to prison.” He’s still worried about providing for his family, but at least, he says, he has his documents. Now he’ll be legally allowed to marry his wife, and — when the opportunity arrives — he’ll be allowed to accept legal employment… At least he now legally exists. 

12.02.20

It is difficult to exercise your rights when you do not know them or do not know where to go to get the right information. That is why our colleagues, with the support of the Swedish Institute (SI) and the University of Lund, have developed an information booklet “Promoting access to basic social services for the Roma population”. Our lawyers Sonya Kordonets and Konstantin Funziy has already, together with the partners, spoken about it to the representatives of the Roma community of Kyiv region. On February 12 the meeting turned into a consultation. There are a lot of problems that need to be commented by lawyers and specialists. The questions were mostly concerned on the topic of obtaining a Ukrainian passport. We thank to the representatives of the Center for Social Services for the Family, Children and Youth of Darnytskyi District for their support and assistance in organizing the meeting.

03.07.19

Read the report «Statelessness in Russia and Ukraine: possible ways to overcome the problem» here.