At the conclusion of an official visit to Ukraine, a United Nations human rights expert has called on the Government to step up its response to prevent and address internal displacement and to provide durable solutions to the persons already displaced.
“I urge the Government to intensify its efforts to protect the rights of IDPs from the conflict affected east of the country and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, in a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
According to the news release, Ukraine is among the countries with the highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world, and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes due to the ongoing conflict since April 2014.
The release further noted that during his visit, Mr. Beyani commended the Ukrainian Government for its continued efforts to address the IDPs’ situation, including the adoption of a new law on internal displacement and the establishment of a ministry to deal directly with the issue.
However, he also noted the challenges affecting IDPs’ welfare, including a system of payment of pensions and social benefits, which is based on verification of the place where they reside.
In particular, the Special Rapporteur emphasised: “Payment of pensions and social benefits must be delinked from registration, as this has led to problems in the verification of the residence of IDPs resulting in a suspension of such payments affecting some 500,000 to 600,000 IDPs in eastern Ukraine and this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
“Internally displaced persons should be able to receive their pensions and social payments wherever they are in the country,” he stressed, warning that the combined effect of the registration system and the suspension of payments is causing secondary displacement as well as unsafe spontaneous returns.
In the release, the UN rights expert also underscored that in the areas controlled by the Government, the authorities must ensure freedom of movement and choice of place of residence. He further emphasized that in Non-Government controlled areas, the leadership of the territories under the control of armed groups are also bound by the same obligations, to the extent proportionate with national and public security measures.
“I have seen myself the issues around freedom of movement as I crossed the contact line: at the few available checkpoints along the contact line, people queue for hours or days, at great risk to their safety; there are no efficient special arrangements for the elderly, children, pregnant women or persons with disabilities,” he said.
“With winter closing in, the situation is only bound to get worse,” the human rights expert warned, underlying the need for all parties involved to guarantee unimpeded access for humanitarian actors on the ground.
Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.