Recognizing the importance of re-opening the EECPs in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, while at the same time protecting public health during a pandemic, the Humanitarian Country Team offers the following suggestions to the Government of Ukraine in developing its strategy for the safe re-opening of the EECPs. These suggestions draw on years of practical experience in working at the EECPs, consultations with persons affected by the closure and on international and Ukrainian legal standards, as well as the guidance of the World Health Organization. The document contains an annex with a checklist of risk mitigation measures.
Re-opening the entry-exit crossing points (EECPs)
Normally, the EECPs are busy: during 2019, an average of 38,000 people crossed the five EECPs in the east daily in both directions, and in summer months, the number of crossings is an average of 22 per cent higher than in winter. In the months of June-August 2019, there was an average of more than 1.5 million crossings per month.
In monthly surveys conducted at the EECPs, people state that they cross the EECPs for the following reasons: to obtain pensions, access banking, visit relatives, shop for goods or resolve issues with their documents. Among those crossing, nearly 60 per cent are older persons, and over 60 per cent are female.
The EECPs in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts have been closed since 22 March 2020. This has imposed hardship on hundreds of thousands of people. They long to visit their relatives and friends, homes and family gravestones. Many depend on traveling across the EECPs to go to work. Others need to cross the EECPs to receive their pensions, go to the bank, renew their documents, purchase medicine or obtain an education. Unable to cross the EECPs, many people, especially pensioners, have lost access to the income they use to buy food and medicine.
It is important to restore the smooth functioning of the EECPs in a safe manner as soon as the quarantine ends. This will preserve social cohesion and protect the rights of Ukrainian citizens, especially those residing in non-government-controlled areas (NGCA).
In accordance with international human rights law, any restrictions on freedom of movement related to the pandemic must meet the requirements of legality, necessity, proportionality and non-discrimination. Restrictions, such as the closure of the EECPs, should be strictly temporary in scope, the least intrusive to achieve public health goals and include safeguards to return to ordinary laws when the emergency situation is over.