19.01.2018 Print

The Seventh Working Meeting on Assistance Provided to Migrants from UkraineAt the beginning of this year, we would like to summarize some of the activities of UNHCR in Belarus and partners. On December 14, 2017, the Seventh Working Meeting on Assistance Provided to Migrants from Ukraine took place, where the results of activities of international organizations, NGOs and state bodies on providing assistance to persons arriving to the Republic of Belarus from Ukraine were summed up.

During the meeting, the following issues were put on the agenda:
1. The migration situation in Belarus in connection with the arrived citizens of Ukraine: current statistics and the dynamics of development, taking into account changes in the legislation in the field of migration.
2. Monitoring the law enforcement practices of Ukrainian citizens’ access to rights in Belarus.
3. The strategy and activities of local state bodies concerning Ukrainian citizens in Belarus in the field of health, education, employment and social protection: statistics, current situation and dynamics of development.
4. Assistance provided to Ukrainian citizens in Belarus through the ICRC.
5. Counseling and assistance provided to Ukrainian citizens in Belarus through NGOs.

Jean-Yves Bouchardy, UNHCR Representative in the Republic of Belarus, delivered an introductory speech. In his speech Jean-Yves Bouchardy noted that the previous 6 meetings were aimed at uniting efforts, sharing updates and making recommendations in order to provide comprehensive assistance to Ukrainian citizens in Belarus. As a result of these efforts, some progress has been made. Specifically, in providing access to the state procedure for determining refugee status, to health, education, employment, registration, as well as social payments and housing. For this year, as of December, 3, more than 600 people applied for asylum in Belarus. Over 500 of them are citizens of Ukraine. For comparison: for the entire 2016 there were about 780 applicants for protection in the country; more than 630 of them are Ukrainians. In 2015, this figure almost reached 1,000. Also Jean-Yves Bouchardy said that informing Ukrainian migrants about their rights remains a priority. To this end, UNHCR regularly visits regional centers and other cities with monitoring visits.

Then Zeynal Hajiyev, Chief of Mission, IOM Belarus, delivered his speech. He stressed that the IOM is monitoring the situation with the citizens of Ukraine in the country. It was noted that the issues of migrants, internally displaced persons from Ukraine remain at the focus of attention, but the practical work of IOM is reduced to single cases of returning home voluntarily. 5 citizens of Ukraine were assisted in their return to Ukraine (Khmelnitsk).

In his speech, Alexander Tatura, Deputy Head of the Department on Citizenship and Migration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, noted that today more than 36 000 citizens of Ukraine live, work and study in the Republic of Belarus. Working meetings allowed to achieve coordinated actions and decisions including legislative initiatives. He also stressed that the situation in the Republic of Belarus continues to be stable and manageable. Further, Alexander Tatura provided statistical data. The maximum number of Ukrainians who received permits for permanent residence was observed in 2014-2015 and amounted to more than 7 thousand and more than 8 thousand people respectively. In the last two years the number of permits issued for permanent residence has been decreasing by approximately 2 times. As of July 1, 2017, the number of registered citizens of Ukraine permanently residing in the territory of the Republic of Belarus was 31 606 people. The number of Ukrainians who received permits for temporary residence, as of July 1, 2017, was 4850 people. For 9 months of 2017, 3489 citizens of Ukraine were employed in the republic.

The meeting was also attended by Timofey Solodkov, UNHCR Protection Officer, who noted the decline in the number of applications for protection filed by citizens of Ukraine in 2016-2017.

Representatives of the Committee on Labor, Employment and Social Protection of the Minsk City Executive Committee and the Minsk Regional Executive Committee on behalf of I. Dudkina and E. Pomazova were present at the event. There were representatives from the regions as well. Representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross Mohamed Khavtsukov said that to date the ICRC has completed financing the programme for issuing vouchers to Ukrainian citizens. From March to July 2017 the last round of distribution of vouchers was carried out.

At the end of the meeting a discussion and summing up was held. The following problematic issues and proposals were put forward for discussion:

• in connection with the stabilization of the situation with the citizens of Ukraine, the working meetings on this issue should be reclassified to interagency meetings on assistance to refugees and individuals in general with the involvement of all interested agencies and organizations. Work of all the stakeholders in the direction of rendering assistance to citizens of Ukraine should be carried out on individual cases;
• to continue cooperation of state structures and NGOs in providing assistance to citizens of Ukraine;
• to continue collecting and exchanging information and statistics among all partners;
• international missions in Belarus and NGOs to attract additional resources to assist citizens of Ukraine;
• BRCS and the ICRC to promote the dissemination of experience in the development of microeconomic initiatives in other regions of the Republic of Belarus;
• UNHCR and BRCS to organize regional level meetings for the staff of the BRCS regional organizations on providing assistance to refugees / asylum seekers within the framework of the UNHCR and BRCS project, and also to develop regional information materials on assistance to refugees / asylum seekers for use in the work of BRCS units, as well as state organizations from among partners;
• The International Organization for Migration to provide the results of a study on the issue of interaction between migration and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

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