Will the new law make life easier for refugees?

As reported, the Law on Refugees and People who need Additional or Temporary Protection came into force on 4 August 2011. While reception has been generally positive, there are doubts as to its practical enforcement.

The Law extends the list of grounds for receiving official refugee status in Ukraine and most importantly adds the term “other reasons” as in international legislation.


Another major improvement is seen in the new norm on preserving and uniting families ensuring that children (minors) will automatically receive status if it is held by a parent.  


The Law also envisages the possibility of receiving additional or temporary protection.  According to Natalia Hurzhia. Head of the charity “Rokada”, there are also several social advantages. Most important is simplified procedure for getting work or studying which promotes better integration of refugees. Ms Hurzhia, however, stresses that while such legal norms are good, a law alone is not enough to improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers. Implementation of the law will need time, instructions and subordinate acts which the State Migration Service must issue, and the relevant department has yet to be created.


For example, human rights workers often approach higher educational institutes asking them to enrol the children of refugees but get refused. The institutes say that the law may be in place but the mechanisms for implementing it are not set down.  The problems of providing refugees with social housing, decent living conditions in holding centres, etc, are also unresolved. On official pay of 1500 UAH per month, a refugee family cannot find any apartment.


Ms Hurzhia adds that how well the law is implemented will also depend on the court system. Many asylum seekers, having had their application turned down, appeal against the decision to the court. However due to the judicial changes the country has lost many judges who were qualified and knowledgeable in this sphere.  Ms Hurzhia says that asylum seekers often wait years for a decision.


The UNHCR point out that in Ukraine only 10 percent of all applications are successful. As of the present time, 2.5 thousand people in Ukraine hold refugee status, while approximately 3 thousand are waiting for consideration of their application.

The Law does not guarantee protection from ill-treatment of asylum seekers, nor the further protection of people whose applications are turned down, while the procedure for forced deportation is set down in very narrow terms.

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