On 17 January 2018 results of the study conducted by Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union were presented in Kyiv at the press conference “Lost in paperwork: observance of the social rights of internally displaced persons”.
UHHRU and Donbas SOS conclude that despite the fact that three years have passed since the start of the armed conflict, the government has been rather slow in helping IDPs, sometimes even creating new problems. Thus, IDPs are facing a number of issues almost daily, such as the high cost of housing, lack of employment opportunities, as well as difficulties with getting pensions and social benefits, obtaining documents, registering their place of residence, etc.
“After almost 4 years of the armed conflict, current legislation still contains numerous discriminatory provisions that lead to significant material and immaterial losses for IDPs. Availability of social benefits depends on a person’s place of residence, which prevents people from freely moving around Ukraine, while the lengthy procedure for verifying a person’s identity and place of residence not only violates the right to privacy, but also deprives that person of rightful payments for long periods,” says Hanna Rassamakhina, UHHRU legal aid center lawyer specializing in Crimea issues.
Due to the fact that different government agencies have different ways of keeping records, even the exact number of IDPs is still unknown. Official figures of bodies responsible for social protection of citizens giving 1,580,646 registered IDPs differ from the figures given by local administrations of the State Emergency Service. The study shows that in 7% of cases not a single family member is registered with social protection authorities. In other cases, only 1 or 2 family members are registered (48%), due to the fact that registration is only possible for persons entitled to social payments or services.
In the absence of a clear state policy on human rights, 2016 and 2017 were marked by discrimination of IDPs who are pensioners or beneficiaries of any social aid, as well as by absolute restriction of pensions for Ukrainian citizens living in territories outside GoU control. This is clearly demonstrated by the recent court decision regarding the lawsuit filed by Donbas SOS against the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers 365 determining the procedure for granting and regulating social benefits for IDPs.
“The court declared Decree 365 unlawful and demanded its cancellation. And yet it still remains in force. On the other hand, the practice of hindering IDP integration looks equally ridiculous; thus, those IDPs that don’t want help from the state and would rather refuse the IDP certificate are unable to do this – they can either comply with the unlawful Decree 365 or risk losing their pension,” says Olga Gvozdiova, advocacy coordinator at Donbas SOS.
According to the experts, social rights are not limited to pensions and child benefits. “IDPs also turn to UHHRU legal aid centers for help with such issues as various social services; job search, vocational training and education; access to culture; aid with finding a home; healthcare and medical issues,” noted UHHRU analyst Alla Blaha.
We believe that the government should reconsider its policy on IDP protection and adjust certain legislative acts to comply with international and national law, as well as UN and Council of Europe standards,” remarked UHHRU lawyer Hanna Rassamakhina.