UNHCR encourages swift adoption of legislation to protect internally displaced persons in Ukraine

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15 September 2014. Kyiv - UNHCR welcomes that the Verkhovna Rada is working urgently to adopt Ukraine`s first legislation that would regulate rights and freedoms of internally displaced persons. According to Government sources, there are at least 310,000 IDPs from Crimea and Donbas today seeking assistance, including access to education, medical care, housing, jobs and even food and warm clothing amid the recent conflict.

We hope that the Ukrainian parliament will approve the draft law entitled “On ensuring of rights and freedoms of internally displaced persons”. The Human Rights Committee of the Verkhovna Rada already ensured that its provisions are consistent with international legal standards, particularly the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. “We welcome support of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee and their intention to bring the draft law in line with international standards,” highlighted UNHCR Regional Representative for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine.

Too many IDPs still cannot exercise their rights. Many IDPs have abruptly lost everything, including homes, documents, their livelihoods and contact with their family members. A special legal framework is needed to solve every day elementary and practical problems of IDPs, providing them with assistance to meet their humanitarian needs and simplifying the procedures so that they can enjoy their rights like every Ukrainian. It could also help them to prepare for durable solutions which might entail either settling into jobs, schools and homes in another part of the country or voluntarily returning to their previous homes.

The draft legislation recognizes the rights and freedoms of IDPs, establishes a simple procedure for registering IDPs and providing them with temporary accommodation. It simplifies access to a number of civil, economic and social rights, such as residence registration, access to employment and provision of pensions and other social benefits. The law also makes provisions to return home voluntarily, and access to social housing or home loans on favorable terms for those who wish to settle elsewhere.

UNHCR encourages the members of parliament to carry out additional improvements in order to bring the draft yet closer in line with international standards. For example, foreigners and stateless persons legally residing in Ukraine - spouses of Ukrainian citizens, refugees, foreign students, - should also receive assistance if they are internally displaced. In practice, most local authorities are already generously assisting IDPs and it makes sense to build on this good practice. Specific measures need to be in place to provide urgent assistance to persons who cannot be registered immediately because of a large influx, as well as to address the situation of persons already registered before the law goes into effect.

UNHCR hopes that this draft legislation is adopted and responds to the pleas for real help. IDPs have a right to know what assistance they may expect from the Government. Practical administrative problems, such as signing up for unemployment benefits or re-registering their businesses at a new location need a functioning and transparent legislative basis.