On July 17, the Government of Ukraine adopted Resolution No. 815, which approved a new Order for crossing the contact line with the occupied territories of Donbas. It was due to enter into force on October 29, 2019. However, due to the public outcry caused by some norms of the resolution, it was delayed until November 29. It’s expected that during this time it will be amended to improve the situation with the crossing of the EECPs, as well as to strengthen ties with residents of temporary occupied territories (TOT). In addition, the Decree of the President of Ukraine of October 7, 2019 mandates the relevant state bodies to work on the issue of simplifying the movement of persons and goods from and to the TOT, and to take measures to improve the situation at the EECPs. What steps will the state take? What needs to be done to meet the humanitarian needs at the EECPs? These issues were discussed during a press conference on November 11, 2019 in Kyiv.
Serhii Sivokho, Advisor to the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council on issues of reintegration and restoration of Donbas, Artem Salikhov, Advisor to the Minister for Veterans, Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons, Daryna Tolkach, Advocacy coordinator, CF “Right to Protection”, Tetiana Durnieva, Executive Director of the NGO “Civil Holding GROUP OF INFLUENCE”, Alona Lunova, Advocacy manager, “ZMINA. Human Rights Center” participated in the press conference.
According to Serhii Sivokho, resolving all issues related to the crossing the contact line should match the general state policy of maintaining communication with the people who live at the occupied territories. “About 40,000 of our citizens go through 9 circles of hell every day at the EECPs. The need to obtain a permit to travel, to queue, to carefully inspect personal belongings and to seize those that are not on the white list, not only doesn’t help to keep in touch, but on the contrary, distracts our citizens. It is long overdue for us to turn our face to these people. They are our citizens. And they should feel like citizens of Ukraine! It was yesterday when we were supposed to start humanizing the regime of passage of the EECPs”, – said Serhii Sivokho.
One of the provisions currently contained in the Order is the need to obtain permission to cross the contact line. However, according to Tetiana Durnieva, the procedure for crossing should be revised. It was set in 2015, when the security situation required it, but now this system is more conducive to promoting corruption and increasing the length of time spent at the EECPs. “Now, all five EECPs are equipped with appropriate border control systems. This means that the person can be checked directly during the crossing of the EECP and does not need to have his or her data in advance. Instead, the permitting system facilitates queues and has numerous corruption risks. In addition, there are often failures in her work, which leads to the collapse of the EECP. That’s why, in our opinion, the revision of the approach to the organization of crossing the contact line and cancellation of the permit system is relevant. It will also remove artificial obstacles for communication, without affecting the security level”.
One of the most important reasons for delaying the new Order was the question of crossing the contact line by children. The new Order provides that the only document for entry-exit the TOT by children under 14 years of age should be a foreign passport. “The residents of the occupied territories had a very negative perception of this innovation, because now the family had to issue a passport, which costs almost 700 UAH, to cross the contact line with the child. In addition, due to the excitement, it is almost impossible to apply for a passport in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts”, – claimed Alona Lunova. “We suggest to return the birth certificate to the list of documents on which basis child may cross the contact line. This will reduce social tension while not affecting the security situation. This position has received the support of all relevant state bodies, so we hope that the appropriate changes will be adopted by the Government”, – Lunova said.
A positive innovation of Resolution No. 815 is the change in approaches to the settlement of the issue of goods transportation through the contact line. Resolution provides the transition from the list of authorized goods to the list of goods which transportation is prohibited or restricted, approved by the Ministry for Veterans. The draft of the relevant Order was published on the Ministry official website, and its public discussion is ongoing until November, 12.
“The principle behind the Ministry team working on the Order and the Resolution is to maximize the simplification of the life of Ukrainian citizens who are forced to live in the TOT and to secure their constitutional rights,” – Artem Salikhov said. He also noted that both the amendments to the Resolution and the Order with the list of goods are the result of joint partnership work and some compromise between the position of the concerned state bodies and NGOs. He promised that the Ministry for Veterans would continue to monitor the situation with the practical implementation of the Resolution and Order, resorting to further clarifications and improving the procedure of crossing the contact line if needed.
The event is held within the project “Providing the multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance to conflict affected population in eastern Ukraine”, implemented with the financial support of the European Commission in the framework of Civil Protection and Humanitarian Assistance to the European Union within the consortium ACCESS.