A. Situation analysis
Summary of the situation
The armed conflict in the south-eastern parts of Ukraine – in Donetsk and Luhansk regions – has triggered a massive movement of civilians in search of refuge and security to other parts of Ukraine and beyond, including into neighbouring Belarus and the Russian Federation. According to the President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, 160,000 forced migrants from the south-eastern regions of Ukraine affected by the armed conflict have arrived in Belarus since June 2014. According to deputy head of department of citizenship and migration of the Ministry of the Interior (MoI) of the Republic of Belarus, around 60,000 Ukrainian migrants remain in the country – others have either returned home or moved to other countries, such as the Russian Federation or EU member states.
According to MoI, in November 2015, 2,450 persons applied for refugee status and subsidiary protection. 3 of them received refugee status, and ssubsidiary protection was provided to 1,933 Ukrainians. Many displaced people from eastern Ukraine who fled to safer areas in Belarus are traumatised and many are struggling to settle and integrate. Despite the welcoming attitude and generosity shown by most local people, some negative attitudes are being observed among host communities. These attitudes are rooted in the perception that displaced people receive more favourable treatment and conditions than the host population – migrants from Ukraine are perceived as competitors for employment, accommodation, services, benefits and humanitarian assistance. Existing stigma affects the displaced people's ability to earn a living and integrate into the community. While there are some opportunities in the employment market in Belarus and in the area of integration – including housing, access to social welfare and health care –, meaningful integration support and humanitarian aid networks are virtually non-existent, therefore the most vulnerable displaced people from Ukraine are struggling to get access to assistance. For some most vulnerable groups, such as mothers with young children, expectant mothers, people with disabilities and older people, it is especially difficult and at times impossible to find employment and/or acquire new skills or professions. These vulnerable people require urgent assistance in meeting their essential daily needs.
Since 2016, the number of migrants entering Belarus has decreased; however, a lot of migrants arriving earlier remained in the country, including people suffering from chronic needs. According to the assessment of BRC, there are around 2,000 families with severe vulnerabilities, which require continuous, life-saving support. This group of migrants includes single-parent families, older people, families with several children, people with disabilities and expectant and nursing mothers. As time goes by, these families’ chronic needs remain unresolved. In Belarus, only holders of permanent resident permits are entitled to financial assistance from the state, while forced migrants with temporary registration have to rely on their own resources. Emergency medical care for displaced people in Belarus is free under a presidential decree; non-emergency medical treatment and medicines are, however, not provided by the state, thus displaced people have to cover such costs themselves. This is poses a serious problem to those displaced people with chronic health issues, especially people with diabetes, cardiac dysfunctions, cancer, surgery needs, obstetric aid needs, rehabilitation and prosthetics, as they tend to not have the necessary financial resources. The absence of timely support to address this issue and provide medical treatment has resulted in 28 deaths which could have been prevented between 2014 and the start of BRC’s assistance.
According to the BRC’s assessment, there are currently some 5,000 people with such severe health condition and vulnerabilities, requiring continuous, live-saving support. They have mainly arrived prior to 2016 and been in Belarus ever since with their chronic needs continuing to exist and being unmet. They include single parent families, older people, families with several children, people with disabilities and expectant and nursing mothers.
In the reporting period, the Belarus Red Cross’ emergency assistance operation for the displaced people has provided lifeline for 2,157 Ukrainian families. Long-term support programmes are being discussed now, to meet the chronic needs of at least 5,000 people from Ukraine, who have been carefully selected by BRC based on criteria established in coordination with IFRC and ICRC. The medical needs are reported as not fully covered, while BRC takes care of only life-saving cases. The needs are not so high in Minsk but are becoming more acute in Gomel and Mogilev regions.
These needs will be partially covered from ECHO funds starting from May 2017. In addition, UNHCR is slated to launch a new action on support to vulnerable displaced Ukrainians in Belarus. The project will provide organisation of State consultative centres for migrants and training for local authorities dealing with the displaced people. Another action will be launched by the European Commission within the Annual Action Programme 2016 in favour of the Republic of Belarus. The action will include a component to address the phenomenon of increased irregular migration flows through Belarus originating from the conflict in Ukraine.