For information on UNHCR’s operations in Ukraine prior to 2016, please visit the Regional Office in Ukraine page. 

Operation: Opération: Ukraine



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Key Figures

2020 year-end results
12,496 IDPs and conflict-affected people and 2,438 refugees and asylum-seekers received legal assistance
1,938 IDPs and conflict-affected people received long-term, permanent shelter
872 IDPs received cash grants and 618 IDPs in-kind support
173 people with undetermined nationality were assisted with confirmation of nationality
2021 planning figures
15,200 IDPs and conflict-affected people, and 2,800 refugees and asylum-seekers, to receive legal assistance
2,640 IDPs and conflict-affected people to receive long-term, permanent shelter
800 IDPs to receive cash grants and 875 IDPs to receive in-kind support
500 people of undetermined nationality to be assisted with confirmation of nationality

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Decrease in
2020 2,394,455
2019 2,454,245
2018 1,544,684


[["Refugees",2274],["Asylum-seekers",2366],["IDPs",734000],["Stateless",35815],["Others of concern",1620000]]
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2020 {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"budget":[42.253913950000005,37.638011739999996,31.083924399999997,27.782351769999995,29.751676449999998,28.9380895],"expenditure":[24.601205710000002,21.429359719999997,19.29978754,19.61200023,18.25064251,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[7.1968692,6.774427650000001,6.02906483,4.65644531,5.505890610000001,5.858329],"p2":[0.66575082,0.6325664799999999,0.81396305,0.91078324,0.90883773,0.908838],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[34.391293929999996,30.23101761,24.24089652,22.21512322,23.336948109999998,22.1709225]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[5.4217403,4.82198014,4.3982838300000004,3.92741683,4.2443765099999995,null],"p2":[0.0711454,0.31401169,0.45969128000000004,0.55133867,0.64318897,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[19.10832001,16.29336789,14.44181243,15.133244730000001,13.36307703,null]}
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  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021

Operational context

In 2020, COVID-19 strained Ukraine’s health system and caused an economic downturn. Many refugees and asylum-seekers lost their jobs, with no recourse to social protection. Movement across the contact line in the east was significantly restricted. The numbers crossing fell by 79% (2,954,532 in 2020 compared with 13,922,100 in 2019) and many from non-government-controlled areas (NGCA) were unable to access banking, pensions, or documentation services. Low-intensity armed conflict continued, albeit with less shelling after the 27 July ceasefire agreement. Nevertheless, the conflict-affected population remained in dire need of protection and assistance.

Following government restructuring at the central level there were changes in the ministry responsible for IDPs and conflict-affected people, while local governments assumed a more important role due to decentralization reforms. The Government established a legal entity to take responsibility for operating entry-exit crossing points (EECPs) in the east.

With security and reform issues dominating the Government’s agenda, there was little progress on asylum issues and recognition rates remained low. A law establishing a statelessness determination procedure was passed in June 2020 but delays in adopting associated by-laws postponed its entry into force, heightening the risk of statelessness.

Population trends

At the end of 2020, Ukraine hosted 2,274 refugees, including 95 mandate refugees, and 2,366 asylum-seekers. According to the State Migration Service, out of 2,160 recognized refugees, 1,273 held refugee status and 887 benefitted from complementary protection. Most originate from Afghanistan (36%) and the Syrian Arab Republic (22%). COVID-19 travel restrictions caused a drop in the number of new asylum applications by 42% to 597. During 2020, UNHCR identified 21 unaccompanied and separated children.

There are an estimated 734,000 IDPs from NGCA in Ukraine and 1.6 million conflict-affected people. UNHCR estimates that 37% of people in need of humanitarian assistance are older persons, 55% are women and girls and 13% are persons with disabilities.

Ukraine hosts an estimated 35,875 stateless persons, including 5,815 registered as stateless. There is a heightened risk of statelessness for migrants, members of the Roma ethnic minority and people lacking birth registration or other identity documents until the law on a statelessness determination procedure comes into force. An estimated 65,000 babies born in NGCA lack Ukrainian-issued birth certificates and may be at risk of statelessness. This number rose 30% in 2020 because of the prolonged closure of crossing points on the contact line in eastern Ukraine.  

Key achievements

  • Advocacy by UNHCR resulted in IDPs’ participation in local elections for the first time and a new compensation scheme for housing destroyed in the armed conflict, allowing UNHCR to prepare to disengage from shelter assistance in government-controlled areas. 
  • UNHCR phased out all individual assistance for IDPs in 2020 but provided emergency cash assistance to a small number of IDPs affected by COVID-19. UNHCR trained 276 IDP community groups to advocate effectively for themselves and expanded this activity to two additional oblasts. As a result, community groups successfully advocated for IDP housing programmes at the local level and joined civic councils to facilitate dialogue with local authorities. 
  • UNHCR provided assistance along both sides of the line of contact, with a particular focus on isolated communities. UNHCR provided legal assistance to 12,496 individuals and protection support to 8,500, including social accompaniment and psychosocial support, and cash or in-kind assistance to 1,572 very vulnerable cases. 
  • The adoption of a law establishing a statelessness determination procedure achieved one of UNHCR’s long-standing advocacy goals. Through its partners, UNHCR provided individual legal assistance to 1,136 people under its statelessness mandate and 4,868 legal consultations. As a result, 173 people had their identity/nationality confirmed and obtained a passport, 39 obtained a birth certificate and 157 obtained a birth certificate duplicate.

Unmet needs

  • State reception conditions remained inadequate and UNHCR had to cover the basic needs of asylum-seekers. In addition to low recognition rates, asylum-seekers struggled to obtain documentation, access their rights and become self-sufficient. 
  • With most resources concentrated on acute IDP needs, UNHCR could only offer advocacy and community mobilization to address protection and inadequate housing for an estimated 6,000 people residing in collective centres. 
  • In NGCA, up to 9,000 families need humanitarian support to repair their homes. COVID-19 and unpredictable humanitarian access meant UNHCR repaired only 840 homes out of a planned 1,100. 

Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)

Flexible funding enabled UNHCR to provide cash assistance to 550 households (1,550 individuals) identified as vulnerable people of concern in the pandemic. Flexible funding enabled an immediate response and saved lives.

Working environment

Since the adoption of the Minsk Agreement in early 2015, Ukraine has had a partial ceasefire along a 427-kilometer-long line of contact running through Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in eastern Ukraine. However, violations of the ceasefire occur daily, and the negotiations among parties to the conflict have reached a stalemate. In the past two years, the number of civilian casualties has continued to decrease but families along the contact line continue to suffer the effects of regular shelling, including property damage, stress and economic blight.
The authorities have registered 1.5 million people as internally displaced. Of these, the UN estimated that 800,000 resided permanently in Government-controlled areas, while others moved frequently across the “contact line” or registered as IDPs to maintain access to their pensions. 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 capacity of the authorities to coordinate and deliver services to IDPs, e.g. through coordination of the Shelter/NFI cluster and provision of legal assistance to IDPs.
UNHCR multi-year multi-partner strategy covers all populations of concern to UNHCR, with integrated programming of activities such as legal assistance and community mobilization. UNHCR provides strategic leadership on protection through coordination, response and advocacy, working closely with the Humanitarian Country Team. The partnership with the host government is supported through regular high-level consultations and the UNHCR contribution to the UN Partnership Framework for 2018–2022.

Key priorities

In 2020, UNHCR will focus on the following strategic priorities:
  • Strategic leadership to ensure the centrality of protection across the humanitarian response.
  • A solutions-oriented approach that prioritizes access to national services and safety nets, bridges the humanitarian-development nexus and support engagement with Global Compact on Refugees.
  • Integrated programming, which assists all populations of concern to UNHCR, including through area-based approaches where they reside in proximity to one another.
  • Preparation for responsible disengagement through enhancement of national response capacity.
In 2020, UNHCR’s operational priorities will be:
  • leading the protection cluster and its different working groups, and fostering partnerships with IDP communities, international organizations, civil society, and central and local governments;
  • protection advocacy, legal assistance, individual protection assistance (using cash-based interventions where possible), community-based protection activities, such as peaceful coexistence projects and community support initiatives;
  • protection monitoring that will largely focus on areas adjacent to the line of contact, but will also encompass areas with large IDP populations;
  • conducting shelter repairs for vulnerable families whose houses were damaged by the conflict and responding to any flare-ups in the conflict with the delivery of essential NFIs. 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 regarding the asylum procedure, exercise of civil, social and economic rights, as well as access to public services;
  • enhancing practices and strategy in the area of asylum litigation to ensure that judicial review becomes a stronger tool in removing gaps in the asylum procedure; and
  • providing training on statelessness to the State Migration Service (SMS), 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.

Latest contributions
  • 15-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 14-OCT-2021
  • Qatar

    private donors

  • 12-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Ireland
  • Italy

    private donors

  • 09-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • 08-OCT-2021
  • Japan

    private donors

  • 06-OCT-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 05-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 04-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • 01-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 30-SEP-2021

    private donors

  • Switzerland

    private donors

  • Brazil

    private donors

  • Philippines

    private donors