On September 7, 2015 the "round table" on the issues of forced migration took place at the Faculty of International Relations of BSU. The round table was organized by the Permanent Commission on Human Rights, National Relations and Mass Media of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus, Belarusian State University and the International Non-Governmental Association for Scientific Research, Information and Educational Programmes "Evolutio" with the support of the Council of Europe Information Point in Minsk.
The event was aimed to discuss acute issues of forced migration in Belarus, ways of overcoming the arising problems in this sphere taking into account the international experience, as well as via improvement of the national legislation in this sphere.
Sergey Ablameyko, BSU Rector, Academician, and Andrey Naumovich, Chairman of the Permanent Commission on Human Rights, National Relations and Mass Media of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus, delivered their introductory speeches. They thanked the organizers as well as marked the importance of such event on the background of the migration processes taking place in the world. Belarus doesn’t stand aside, and only with joint efforts it is possible to solve the problems of forced migration which we are facing today. Victor Shadurski, Dean of the Faculty of International Relations of BSU, acted as the moderator of the “round table”. In his turn he noted that despite the fact that Belarus admitted citizens of Ukraine in proportion 1 per cent to the population (i.e. this is a big figure), there are no significant problems. But there is a need to be proactive and work in advance. Legislative as well as academic circles work on this issue.
Further work of the “round table” was divided into several sessions. Within the first session specialists considered problems of forced migration in contemporary world, as well as the experience of international organizations in overcoming the problems arising in the sphere of forced migration. Within the framework of the session Jean Yves Bouchady, UNHCR Representative in the Republic of Belarus, and Zeynal Hajiyev, Chief of IOM Minsk Mission, as well as Nikita Kolomiyets, Protection Officer of the General Directorate on Human Rights and Superiority of Law of the Council of Europe, presented their speeches.
Jean Yves Bouchardy noted that everything happening today in Europe in terms of mass influx of foreigners is a good lesson for the EU counties as well as for other countries. It is necessary to have some contingency plan in case of mass arrival of foreign citizens in particular countries. It also touches upon Belarus. He also noted that Belarus possesses advanced legislation in the sphere of forced migration, but it is also a subject to improvement.
Zeynal Hajiyev announced the following five recommendations of the IOM on the issues of forced migration: 1) protection of human rights of all migrants; 2) equal access for all migrants of different forms of vulnerability to humanitarian assistance; 3) strengthening partnership within the framework of humanitarian assistance provision; 4) focusing on decreasing risks of natural disasters for more sustainability; 5) promotion of coherence between humanitarian activities and development plans elaboration. He also noted that geographic state of Belarus obliges to pay attention to the situation with migration, despite the fact that Belarus has other situation than the European Union.
Nikita Kolomiyets told about several standards of the European Court on Human Rights in migration sphere and their application, as well as he gave some examples of legal cases and their solution in the international institute.
The second session was devoted to the Belarusian experience in solution of the issues of forced migration. Aleksandr Tatura, Deputy Head of the Department on Citizenship and Migration of the MIA Belarus, Inna Lemeshevskaya, Deputy General Secretary of the Belarusian Red Cross Society, and Timofey Solodkov, Protection Officer of the UNHCR Representation in the Republic of Belarus, voiced their expert opinions within the session.
A. Tatura told that the Republic of Belarus has for the first time evidenced mass arrival of persons in need of the international protection. In 2014, because of the events in Ukraine, the number of persons who turned to internal affairs bodies for refugee status or complementary protection increased 4 times. During the current year the flow has not diminished but increased. He presented relevant statistics: in general in January-August 2015 793 persons from 20 countries turned for the international protection, majority of them are from Ukraine. In total, as of September 1, 2015 910 foreigners are recognized as refugees in the Republic of Belarus. Complementary protection was given to 927 foreign citizens. A. Tatura also told about novelties in the draft law on forced migration which is now posed for discussion.
I. Lemeshevskaya in her turn told about the role of the Belarusian Red Cross Society in work with foreigners applying for the international protection, and foreigners who are provided with refugee status and complementary protection in the Republic of Belarus, as well as about the BRCS activity’s directions with refugees and asylum seekers. She announced a number of problems which UNHCR mandated persons face. The following provisions were indicated: persons under complementary protection and asylum seekers are not entitled to receive pensions and state benefits; there is lack of space for such a big number of forced migrants; persons under complementary protection and asylum seekers has the right only to receive medical assistance on paid basis; etc.
T. Solodkov presented a number of proposals directly touching the legislation. Speaking on behalf of the international organization, he argumentatively announced proposals and suggestions as well as marked the importance and necessity to improve the national legislation for its harmonization with the international standards and realities.
A fruitful discussion took place. It was noted that conditions for admission and resettlement of asylum seekers complying with international standards are created in Belarus, projects on strengthening the capacity of state bodies and non-governmental organizations responsible for the work with forced migrants are implemented. Belarus undertakes further steps to improve the national asylum system seeking to reach the full compliance with the international standards in this sphere.
Within the course of the third session experts expressed their positions on the issue relating to the connection between human rights and forced migration.
Ilya Okunev, Head of the Legal Department of the Refugee Counseling Service, in general told about the activities of presented organization. He also voiced the statistics. According to the information provided by the Committees on Labour, Employment and Social Security of Minsk City Executive Committee and Minsk Region Executive Committee as well district and inter-district departments on labour of Minsk city, within the period from 2014 to June 2015 772 citizens of Ukraine turned to them for assistance. Only 113 persons pointed out their contact details, it was possible to reach only 33 citizens of Ukraine. According to the information provided by the Department of Education of Frunzenski district of Minsk, within the period from 2014 to June 2015 91 persons study and work in kindergartens and schools of Frunzenski district. Currently it is possible to contact 19 families (only 67 persons). Within the period between 25 May and 24 July 2015 the Refugee Counseling Service managed to receive information and provide consultancy to 200 families (693 persons).
Mikhail Artukhin, Head of the Center for Monitoring of the Scientific and Pedagogical Personnel Migration of the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, in his speech marked the necessity of research of relations between Belarusian population and refugees on the common republican level, as far as researches conducted today, unfortunately, possess small representative sample and presented only on the local level.
Andrey Selivanov, INA “Evolutio” Executive Director, in his speech assessed the stages of creation of the national asylum system. He also made conclusions that active work is conducted on improvement of the national legislation, however, as far as Belarus faces the big flow of transit migration, more effective solution of this issue demands additional financial resources which could be provided by European and international institutes.
In June 2015 a draft law «Amending Some Laws of the Republic of Belarus Relating to the Issues of Forced Migration» was submitted for consideration of the House of Representative of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus. It is designed for improvement of the national legislation of the Republic of Belarus in the sphere of forced migration taking into account national interests and provisions of the international instruments. Experts expressed an array of remarks and suggestions which will be used in further work of Belarusian MPs on the abovementioned draft law.