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Ukraine: UN expert calls for swift response to growing internal displacement plight as winter closes in

GENEVA (25 September 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, today urged the Government of Ukraine to establish more effective systems and intensify its efforts to meet the needs and protect the human rights of the internally displaced from the conflict affected east of the country and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea*.

Mr. Beyani warned that the rapidly falling temperatures are causing increasing hardship for the many internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled with few possessions, thousands of whom are currently housed in temporary facilities that are ill equipped for winter conditions.

“The Ukrainian Government must exercise primary responsibility and act urgently to alleviate the severity of the challenges facing thousands of women, men and children with little prospect of safe return to their homes before winter sets in,” the expert said following a ten-day official visit to Ukraine, during which he visited Kyiv, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhya, Luhansk and Donetsk Regions.

“While official figures put the number of IDPs at over 300,000, unofficial estimates suggest that the number of those displaced within Ukraine could be up to three times greater,” he noted.

The Special Rapporteur called for the urgent adoption of an IDP law based on international human rights standards, as a vital element “to enable all actors to respond effectively to their needs with budgets in place.” He insisted that adoption of a draft law, scheduled for 14 October, must not be further delayed and that other normative measures should be taken in the interim period.

“Civil society, churches, and volunteers are making heroic efforts around the country, supported by UN agencies and NGOs. Their capacity and resources are stretched thin and require stronger intervention of Government authorities working in close cooperation with them,” Mr. Beyani noted.

“Coordination across government agencies should be improved to ensure assistance can be quickly provided to internally displaced persons who increasingly have few if any financial resources remaining and are dependent on continuing access to their pensions and other benefits.”

The UN Expert met numerous IDPs who described their experiences, including indiscriminate shelling and destruction of their homes leading them to flee and their uncertainty over their futures.

“For the many internally displaced, financial resources have been quickly exhausted and they now rely entirely on support for shelter, food and all other essential needs,” he warned. “The elderly, disabled, chronically ill, pregnant women and single mothers require special care and provisions, which are difficult to secure for themselves away from their homes.”

“Ukraine must learn from the experiences of similar situations in the region where internal displacement has become protracted,” the expert stated. “Lessons can be drawn to help Ukraine put in place vital policies, frameworks, support structures and programmes to move towards a situation in which many internally displaced persons can return safely to their homes or find alternative durable solutions as envisaged.”

Noting the lack of comprehensive data on the number, location and needs of displaced persons, Mr. Beyani stressed that a full registration and profile of internally displaced persons, including needs assessment, are essential.

In his view, all registration procedures must be harmonized providing IDPs with documentation to access essential services and the possibility to gain employment and livelihood opportunities, and to vote in forthcoming elections.

“The Government must ensure that it complies with international standards as recognized in the 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, for all those IDPs,” he said. The Special Rapporteur reminded the Government and armed groups that according to these standards, IDPs must be free from arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and ill-treatment or any form of violation of their rights.

“I have been concerned to learn about reports of stigmatization and discrimination experienced by some IDPs on account of their situation, which must be addressed immediately,” Mr. Beyani said. “Equally, it is important to ensure freedom of movement and residence for IDPs and to ensure that host communities or families providing shelter receive necessary support.”

The human rights expert also called upon the international community to provide immediate and long-term support for essential reconstruction efforts, projects to restore water, electricity and other essential services.

The Special Rapporteur will produce a full report and recommendations to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2015.

(*) Reference to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea should be understood in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution 68/262 of 27 March 2014.

Chaloka Beyani, professor of international law at the London School of Economics, was appointed Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2010. As Special Rapporteur he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/IDPersonsIndex.aspx

Check the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/Standards.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Ukraine: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/UAIndex.aspx 

For further information and media inquiries, please contact Graham Fox (+41 22 917 9640 / gfox@ohchr.org) or write to idp@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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