Ukraine’s active participation in evacuation operations in Afghanistan raised an important and acute issue on how the Ukrainian government would react to the refugee issue while the country had to deal with challenges faced by internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the east of Ukraine and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
Mykola Kuleba, Director of iDemocracy NGO Human Rights Initiative, believes that the Ukrainian government should take care of strengthening social guarantees for refugees and create adequate facilities for them.
«Ukraine has conducted 6 evacuation races from Afghanistan and brought to safety 650 people from Kabul that is under control of the Taliban. Evacuees included not only Ukrainians but also citizens of Afghanistan with 370 of them having asked to grant them refugee status in Ukraine. There is a logical question for how many of them Ukraine is ready to provide a shelter and ensure all necessary facilities»the activist highlighted.
According to the UNHCR Representation in Ukraine, as of the 1st January 2021 Ukraine had 822 refugees and asylum seekers from Afghanistan. It should be noted that Afghans comprise 36% from the overall number of refugees in Ukraine.
«Our country usually is not a final destination for refugees and now one third of Ukrainians are against welcoming foreigners who seek a shelter in Ukraine. This situation is caused by the lack of education and low tolerance level toward representatives of other cultures. These are the reasons for one third of Ukrainians having either cautious or negative attitude toward refugees»Mykola Kuleba stated.
The recent survey conducted by iDemocracy NGO has shown that despite the fact that Ukraine has 2100 refugees, it can provide temporary accommodation in thee shelters for 421 persons only, namely in the city of Yahotyn where 101 refugees can be accommodated at the same time; in Odesa - up to 200 persons, in Mukachevo - up to 120 persons, in Mukachevo - 70 persons and in the city of Perechyn - 50).
«Asylum seekers in Ukraine do not have access to free emergency treatment, social aid as well as language courses of the state of residency in order to adapt to a new environment. So the Presidential Office and the government of Ukraine should adopt the best international practices regarding refugees. For instance, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have the state programs for learning national language and social adaptation of refugees. I emphasize that Ukraine also should consider implementing a state program of learning Ukrainian language among those who are in the process of obtaining or have already been granted with the refugee status. We should also consider the possibility to provide such persons with a state program of social adaptation that may be developed by the Ministry of culture and information policy of Ukraine and the Ministry of social policy»highlighted the Director of iDemocracy Human Rights Initiative.
We should bear in mind that currently Ukraine is in a more complicated situation as there is a need to deal with housing issues of IDPs first.
«As of the beginning of July 2021 1 473 650 persons were registered as internally displaced. Due to such a huge number of those who were forced to change their residence, there is an issue about housing provision for people who could not stay in the combat zone in Donbas but did not have enough financial resources to buy accommodation. In addition, it is worth bearing in mind that the pace of providing housing for IDPs is extremely slow. For example, during 2017-2020 Ukraine bought 340 apartments for more than 1100 IDPs. In 2021 Ukraine allocated ₴125 mln for IDPs’ housing needs and plans to buy approximately the same amount of apartments that were bought in 2017-2020 that will accommodate about 850 persons. Although the exact number of IDPs with housing needs is not available, the Office of the Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights stated in 2020 that 70% of IDPs need a roof over their heads. If we transfer it in numbers then it is over 1 million persons! And with such pace with which the government is buying accommodation it will take 300-500 years to meet IDPs housing needs! Ukraine’s readiness to support refugees from other countries is a civilized decision of an European country but it should be also responsible. The government needs to understand how many people Ukraine can receive in order to provide them with a decent level of assistance»summarized Mykola Kuleba.