Since the adoption of the Minsk agreements in 2014-2015, Ukraine has had a partial ceasefire along a 427-kilometre-long line of contact running through the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in eastern Ukraine. A ceasefire agreed in July 2020 has reduced the frequency of shelling, damage to infrastructure and civilian casualties, however, violations occur almost daily. Progress in negotiations is limited. As a result, people living along both sides of the contact line suffer the consequences of armed conflict such as damage to property, psychological stress and economic blight. COVID-19-related restrictions on movement across the contact line worsened the situation, separating families and deepening economic hardship.
The authorities have registered 1.45 million people as internally displaced. Of these, the UN estimates 734,000 resided permanently in Government-controlled areas, while others moved frequently across the contact line or registered as IDPs to maintain access to their pensions and properties. Most have been living in displacement since the peak of hostilities in 2014, unable to return home in the absence of a sustained peace.
Prioritizing IDPs’ access to national services, UNHCR will continue to enhance the authorities’ capacity to coordinate and deliver services to IDPs and providing legal assistance to IDPs. By enhancing national response capacity, UNHCR can prepare for responsible disengagement.
UNHCR’s multi-year, multi-partner strategy covers all populations of concern to UNHCR, with integrated programming of activities such as legal assistance and community mobilization. A solutions-oriented approach that prioritizes access to national services and safety nets and inclusion in COVID response plans, as well as bridges the humanitarian-development nexus will also be pursued.
UNHCR provides strategic leadership on protection through coordination, response and advocacy, working closely with the Humanitarian Country Team. Partnership with the host government is supported through regular high-level consultations and UNHCR’s contribution to the 2018-2022 UN Partnership Framework.
In 2021, UNHCR will focus on:
- Leading the protection cluster and its different working groups; and fostering partnerships with IDP communities, international organizations, civil society, and central and local governments.
- Advocating protection as central to the humanitarian response, including through legal assistance, individual protection assistance (using cash assistance, where possible), community-based protection activities such as peaceful coexistence projects, and community support initiatives.
- Monitoring the protection of people of concern to UNHCR, particularly in areas adjacent to the line of contact but also in areas with large IDP populations.
- Repairing homes damaged by the conflict in non-Government-controlled areas for vulnerable families and responding to any flare-ups in the conflict by delivering essential non-food items. Should displaced people decide to return to their places of origin in Government-controlled areas, UNHCR will be ready to provide shelter support, if needed, for extremely vulnerable cases and families with specific needs.
- Providing free legal aid to refugees and asylum-seekers related to asylum procedures, the exercise of their civil, social and economic rights, and access to public services.
- Engaging with the judiciary to strengthen review of asylum cases;
- Providing statelessness training to the State Migration Service, civil registration offices, judges, local administrations, free legal aid centres and NGOs, as well as legal counselling to stateless persons on obtaining documentation and access to statelessness documents or nationality.