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Important report highlights serious concerns in the Crimea

20.08.2013    source:

The Conclusions posted below to a report commissioned by the High Commissioner on National Minorities demonstrate the urgency of the issues presently facing the Crimea.

The integration of formerly deported people in Crimea, Ukraine: Needs assessment

16 August 2013

Based on independent research commissioned by the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) and his own visits, this report seeks to provide up-to-date analysis of the current situation of national minorities in Crimea and provide recommendations for easing inter-ethnic tensions and increasing the integration of Crimean society.

The HCNM considers Crimea to be a priority because of the challenges related to the ongoing return of thousands of people originally deported en masse on ethnic grounds by the Soviet regime in the 1940s.

The report covers the legal aspects of the return process; the situation of FDPs regarding land, housing and property; the political participation of FDPs; socio-economic aspects; the current situation regarding culture, language and religion; and the role of the education system.

The report can be downloaded from here

8. Concl usions

Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since the members of the communities that were deported on ethnic grounds began returning to Crimea in large numbers. The passing of time has not resolved all problems in Crimea; if anything, it has made them worse. The lack of a comprehensive legal and political agreement on the restoration of rights of the formerly deported peoples [FDP] has presented formidable obstacles to their full integration into public and socio-economic life. The needs assessment shows that unresolved questions of identity, land, property and inclusion in political decision-making are deeply dividing the different groups in Crimea and give rise to tensions, both between communities and within them.

To date, all sides have largely and prudently refrained from resorting to violence to achieve their aims or address their grievances, but the potential for conflict remains as protracted problems are left unresolved.

Crimea faces a volatile mixture of acrimonious political competition, socio-economic exclusion, inter- and intra-religious strife and a general atmosphere of increasing intolerance. The risk of inter-ethnic violence is real and requires urgent attention, both from Ukraine and from its international partners.

This paper has reviewed six issue areas that the HCNM has identified as particularly concerning and in need of attention from the Ukrainian and Crimean authorities and the international community. Of these, the lack of a legal framework for the restoration of rights of the FDPs stands out as one of the most pressing. The adoption of appropriate legislation that defines the FDPs as a separate legal category and clearly outlines their rights to land, housing and State support is a prerequisite for the development of targeted and effective policies. The Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada should therefore pass the Law “On Restoration of Rights of Persons Deported on Ethnic Grounds”, already adopted in the first reading on 20 June 2012, as an immediate priority. Together with the Central Asian States, it should also remedy problems within the legal framework that are negatively affecting returnees, including with regard to citizenship, residency permits and the high costs of relevant paperwork. If an extension of the Bishkek Agreement is not agreed upon by all of its signatories, Ukraine and the Central Asian States could sign bilateral agreements to address these concerns.

Targeted policies are also required to end the disadvantages facing FDPs in the spheres of land, housing, education, language, culture and political participation. The institutional framework is insufficiently equipped to do so, especially after the dissolution of the State Committee for Nationalities and Religion in late 2010.

The Government should therefore follow up the adoption of the law “On Restoration of Rights of Persons Deported on Ethnic Grounds” by re-establishing a dedicated agency with the mandate to implement the Law and to co-ordinate the development and funding of related policies.

In terms of acute social needs, the research revealed that lack of land and housing were the two most prevalent factors inhibiting the improvement of the socio-economic situation of the FDPs. Tens of thousands of FDPs still reside in unauthorized settlements that lack basic infrastructure. A “vicious land cycle” has emerged whereby different ethnic communities respond to perceived injustices in the allocation of land by the authorities with land squatting, leading to tensions and profound uncertainty of land ownership that undermines Crimea’s economic potential. A comprehensive approach to resolve the land issue is urgently required, especially in anticipation of the lifting of the moratorium on land sales in 2016. In addition,

existing programmes meant to provide FDPs with affordable accommodation require revision and stringent monitoring to ensure they meet their intended beneficiaries.

A comprehensive approach to the integration of society in Crimea requires inclusive decision-making, which in turn requires genuine opportunities for FDP communities to participate in political affairs. While political competition between and within communities is an essential part of pluralist systems, the current divisions within the Crimean Tatar community between the Mejlis and its opponents – and the instrumentalization of these divisions by the authorities – undermine the legitimacy of the institutions resolving the problems of the FDPs. An agreement on the legal status of the Mejlis and a removal of existing obstacles to equitablepolitical representation of Crimean Tatars would contribute considerably to the efficiency and legitimacy of governance in Crimea and should be considered as an integral part of the process of restoration of rights and integration of the FDPs.

Research shows that the FDPs are also disproportionately affected by the generally difficult socio-economic circumstances facing Crimea. While poverty affects all communities, those who reside in rural areas – often in compact settlements without basic infrastructure – are particularly deprived of adequate social care and employment opportunities. Due to a lack of specialized institutions and data disaggregated by ethnicity, it is difficult to develop targeted policies and to counter the strong feelings of discrimination that prevail among FDPs. Further research is required, including in the context of existing poverty reduction strategies.

In addition, the adoption of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and empowerment of relevant institutions, including at the regional level, could contribute significantly to reduce the perceived socioeconomic exclusion and concomitant grievances of the FDPs.

Of the different FDP communities, the Crimean Tatars are most concerned about obstacles to the preservation and development of their language, culture and religion. The Crimean Tatar language is endangered and its proponents struggle to revitalize it in a predominantly Russian linguistic environment.

While the authorities provide some support, large sections of society appear reluctant to accommodate the development of Crimean Tatar identity and culture. This is exemplified by resistance to the restoration of historic place names, vandalism of religious sites and occasional clashes between Muslim and Orthodox communities. In addition, the Crimean Tatar community itself is divided over religious issues, with two spiritual directorates or Muftiyats vying for control and various Islamic movements attempting to increase their influence. Real or perceived threats to the Crimean Tatar identity and religious intolerance both increase social tensions and require State involvement, including by safeguarding minority rights and by swiftly condemning, investigating and prosecuting acts inciting religious or inter-ethnic hatred.

The education system, which should play a crucial role in the preservation and development of the languages and cultures of FDPs, is fraught with difficulties. While the legal framework acknowledges the right to mother-tongue education, in reality available resources and existing methodologies are not conducive to equitable educational outcomes. Parental demand for education in languages of FDPs, especially in Crimean Tatar, is low because children in Crimean Tatar-language schools are seen as disadvantaged compared to their peers in Russian-language schools. Multilingual solutions that break the zero-sum game of either Russian or Crimean Tatar are being explored but require further support and expertise. Over the longer term, a fundamental reform of the education system is required, from teaching methodology to teacher training and curriculum review. This demands central leadership, as research shows that local authorities are sometimes unable or unwilling to make the required investments.

Finally, the needs assessment shows that while the Ukrainian authorities should take the lead on addressing the current protracted problems facing the FDPs, Ukraine cannot be expected to solve all the problems on its own. Expertise and resources from abroad should be deployed to support and enhance their efforts. The international community has a clear stake in helping to build a stable and prosperous Crimea, which in turn will contribute to the stability and development of Ukraine as a whole. This is why the HCNM strongly advocates for the convocation of an International Forum on the Integration of the Formerly Deported People in Crimea.

Such a Forum will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to design a joint road map, identify areas where they can provide support and expertise, and agree on joint monitoring of the implementation of the road map.

This paper serves as a starting point for this discussion. While the obstacles facing the successful restoration of rights and integration of the FDPs are numerous and will require strong local, national and international support to overcome, the research shows that they are by no means insurmountable.


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