KHPG statement on the adoption of a law on internally displaced persons
Draft law No. 4998-1 was tabled in parliament on June 19 and adopted that same day in full, this meaning with serious infringements of the regulations. Such haste could be explained by its particular urgency, however unfortunately it does not on the whole resolve the problems of forcibly displaced people. There was no public discussion of this draft law and the recommendations of the UNHCR on the crucial provisions in such a bill were ignored. It is baffling why MPs Valery Patskan and Serhiy Sobolyev rejected draft law No. 4998 on the same subject, tabled by them on June 17 together with Volodymyr Aryev. That draft law, in our assessment, was much better at considering the rights and legitimate interests of people forcibly displaced.
The law only covers forced migrants from the Crimea, Sevastopol and the anti-terrorist operation [ATO] zone. This means that if there should be forced migration, for example, as a result of a terrorist attack outside the ATO zone, the law will not cover people displaced from that territory. In this sense the law is short-sighted.
The explanatory note states that the adoption of the draft bill does not require additional spending from the State Budget. This suggests that the legislators do not want to concern themselves with those forcibly displaced at all, and want them to be looked after by international organizations, charities and the Ukrainian public alone.
According to Article 3.13 a person can be refused a document certifying that they are displaced if:
a. there are no warranted grounds for forced evacuation from one home on territory stipulated in Article 1 § 2 of this law;
b. the authorities have information about:
the person having committed a crime against peace and humanity; the constitutional order or Ukraine’s territorial integrity;
participation in unlawful actions, as per international law and current legislation, on temporarily occupied territory or territory where an anti-terrorist operation is underway.
(a) means that the onus is placed on a person to prove that they left their home “on the territory of Ukraine as a result of circumstances which place the person’s life and health in jeopardy, or that of their family, the loss of accommodation, means (sources) of existence; the threat of the use of force, persecution for political, religious convictions, ethnic origin or belonging to certain social groups, or in order to avoid the consequences of armed conflict or occupation, widespread demonstrations of violence, rights infringements, and where the person has not crossed an internationally recognized state border.
The principle in item (b) will seriously complicate the procedure for receiving a document confirming that a person is a forced migrant and thus specifically “creates the risk of corruption infringements” and the grounds for large-scale refusals to provide such a document.
This could mean that the State Migration Service [SMS] will have to ask for information from the Interior Ministry and SBU to check out people seeking enforced migrant status. This in general poses a danger to the life, health and property of people displaced since such information requests will go to the law enforcement bodies on territory from where the person has come, and could therefore fall into the hands of the terrorists.
Item (b) may be placed only in a provision about the grounds for stripping a person of forced migrant status, not in provisions about refusing to provide the document.
Under the present law it is the SMS which is responsible for enforced migrants. This reflects the philosophy behind this law: the state gives more importance to keeping records and following migration of displaced persons than to providing them with help. If the main aim of the law is to provide people who as the result of forced migration find themselves in a difficult social situation, then this means that the Ministry of Social Policy should look after them.
No procedure is set out for registration of place of residence under which the displaced people retain their old registration and are thus able to enjoy all rights and legitimate interests.
No help at all is provided with accommodation if the forced migrants themselves choose the region and the place of residence is not included in the list of regions set out by the Cabinet of Ministers for temporarily putting forced migrants. The government could thus deprive most displaced people of help with accommodation since the people want to work according to their profession, study and integrate in a new environment.
The above does not, unfortunately, exhaust the list of failings of the law and threats to people’s rights resulting from its adoption. The law in general does not achieve the aim of providing effective help to people internally displaced.
We recommend that a draft law with amendments and supplements to the law be drawn up and passed at the next plenary session of the Verkhovna Rada.
Yevhen Zakharov, Director of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group