Kyiv, 20 June 2019 - On the World Refugee Day, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called on communities, schools, businesses, faith groups and people from all walks of life to take big and small steps in solidarity with refugees at a time when the number of people fleeing war, persecution and conflict exceeded 70 million in 2018, the highest level that UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has seen in its almost 70 years.
To present the latest Global Trends report, UNHCR in Ukraine held a press conference with representatives of UNHCR, state authorities and NGOs working with asylum seekers and refugees.
Pablo Mateu, UNHCR representative in Ukraine, informed journalists that by the end of 2018, 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced, each with their own story to tell, each with a life or family uprooted, broken or lost.
More than half of them (over 41 million) are internally displaced people (IDPs). Tragically, Ukraine has contributed to this number after witnessing its largest ever internal displacement crisis, with more than 1,3 million (1 383 700) IDPs being currently registered by the Ministry of Social Policy.
In 2018, nearly 26 million people globally are refugees. More than 2/3 of the world’s refugees are from only five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. People often confuse these people with migrants but the difference is that refugees cannot go back; such return represents big danger for their lives.
Ukraine currently hosts 2,620 refugees and persons granted complementary protection. And, there are also around 6,500 asylum-seekers, who are waiting for results of their asylum application review by migration service or courts.
“At UNHCR, we see many good stories of refugees who have successfully integrated in Ukraine. But many problems remain, and majority of refugees and asylum-seekers have little chance of becoming self-sufficient in Ukraine. Despite these challenges, during UNHCR participatory assessment in spring 2019, refugees and asylum-seekers spoke about a greater interest in language learning and livelihoods, showing that many wish to make a long-term home in Ukraine.” – said Pablo Mateu, UNHCR Representative, in his speech at a press conference in Kyiv dedicated to the World Refugee Day.
UNHCR works closely with the Ukrainian authorities on building an asylum system that extends protection and promotes durable solutions. Based on an assessment developed jointly with the State Migration Service in 2018, as well as the participatory assessment with refugees and asylum-seekers in 2019, UNHCR advocates for a number of improvements to the asylum system in 2019-2020. In particular, the UNHCR calls on the Ukrainian Government to adopt a procedure for considering asylum applications at international airports, provide adequate funding and procedures for the use of interpreters, and avoid detention of asylum seekers. UNHCR believes that asylum-seekers must have access to free urgent medical care, and access to employment must be simple and practical.
TV Marathon on UkrLife online TV channel
Both refugees and experts working with refugee issues attended the all day long TV marathon on UkrLife online TV channel.
World Refugee Day was celebrated throughout Ukraine during the week of 17-24 June.
On 20 June, UNHCR Ukraine’s NGO partner “Rokada” jointly with NGO R2P organized an open-air public event in Taras Shevchenko Park, one of the most visited parks in Kyiv. The organizers offered visitors a speaking club, various master-classes, as well as singing, dancing performed by persons of concern. Around 500 persons attended the open air event, including refugees from various countries and those who reside in Kyiv. During the event, UNHCR emphasized the importance of celebrating the courage, resilience and determination of refugees, and thanked Ukrainians for welcoming the refugees so warmly at a time when other countries are putting up walls.
The UNHCR field unit in Kharkiv organized a run for 5 and 10 km in the scope of the #StepWithRefugees campaign, gathering around displaced and local population to show solidarity, support and compassion with people forced to flee their homes. The event supported by the local government was highly appreciated by the participants despite the heat (+30) and received sponsor support from the Canadian embassy in Ukrainian and local companies.
On 20 June, extended Protection Working Group meeting took place in Slovyansk. The meeting was dedicated to the observance of the World Refugee Day and internal displacement crisis in the East of Ukraine. Among the issues discussed was streamlining of cooperation within the humanitarian development nexus (HDN); challenges, prevention and response to sexual and gender based violence in the region and achievements of partners in combatting it; the situation and needs for improvements at the entry-exit checkpoints in the east of Ukraine; situation at collective centres hosting IDPs, and more. Women’s Club from Svyatogirsk presented the Forum Theatre sharing their experiences during five years of internal displacement. More than 50 participants represented state authorities, international organizations, and local civil society organizations.
Sviatohirsk is a small town in the north part of Donetsk GCA with some 5000 of local population and some 7000 IDPs displaced. An initiative group of IDPs in consultations with the UNHCR partner Slavic Heart conducted an event within the Global “Step with refugees” campaign for some 400 persons to join the plogging event, which was followed by a concert with participation of IDP and local children of the Sviatohirsk dancing club; Sloviansk club of dancers in wheelchairs, Chermalyk Greek Community, Luhansk GCA active communities and other active initiatives that will consider joining the festival. During the event Slavic Heart organized a fair of handmade items produced by IDPs and local community under the community mobilization projects funded by UNHCR. All the money fundraised at the fair will go to benefit of SGBV survivors supported by Slavic Heart.
On 20 July 2019, UNHCR together with authorities of Marinskyi Raion, local Administration and Department of Social Protection of Marinskiy Raion held the World Refugee Day commemoration event in the town of Marinka. The event was also attended by representatives of various municipal entities, including Head of the Center for children with disabilities “Vognyk Nadii”, as well as by local mass media. In order to enhance the solidarity of local communities with those forcibly displaced all over the world, UNHCR together with local conflict-affected and IDP communities planted 20 saplings of evergreen “Trees of Peace and Solidarity” at the alley located near the Center for children with disabilities. Within the event, Head of Marinskiy Raion has signed the “Cities #WithRefugees” document, thus emphasizing the strive of local authorities in creation inclusive communities and mainstreaming of hope, which has never been so important yet.
On 20 June, Marinka, Donetsk region has signed the Cities #WithRefugees Solidarity statement. This gesture of solidarity with refugees is all the more important as UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report shows that approximately 61 per cent of all refugees and 80 per cent of internally displaced people live in urban areas. Cities, local authorities and municipalities play a central role in supporting and welcoming refugees and other displaced people. They offer safety and shelter and can enable access to local services, education and job opportunities.
The Festival "Celebrate Diversity" was organized by the NGO 10th of April with support from UNHCR in the central park of Odesa in order to share the culture and traditions of different countries, raise awareness on the refugees' support and combat xenofobia in the society.
For more information on events around the World Refugee Day 2019 please visit: https://www.unhcr.org/ua/en/15837-world-refugee-day-2019-in-ukraine.html