Eastern Europe

Operational information on the Eastern Europe subregion is presented below. A summary of this can also be downloaded in PDF format. This subregion covers the following countries:

| Armenia | Azerbaijan | Belarus | Georgia | Russian Federation | Turkey | Ukraine

Subregion: Eastern Europe


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The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.


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  • 2019
  • 2020

Budgets and Expenditure in Subregion Eastern Europe

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2019 {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"budget":[373.29339841999996,420.086669828,423.24577261999997,429.65005841799996,491.51228885,442.6816666],"expenditure":[129.57658867,127.27093730000001,168.29172531999998,186.91989969,158.79881046,158.89388820999997]} {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"p1":[348.65309119,370.486506469,379.8935932,392.981355428,459.99920613,413.70239656],"p2":[3.22419003,2.7507444750000003,2.2105270299999997,2.11277392,2.29926579,2.48660199],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[21.4161172,46.849418884,41.14165239,34.55592907,29.21381693,26.492668050000002]} {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"p1":[114.93678843000001,98.15642826,144.86997663,166.23009044999998,139.45047665,139.30833553],"p2":[1.2841139099999999,1.14276108,1.01061833,1.44116086,1.6577948500000002,1.8284216000000002],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[13.35568633,27.971747960000002,22.411130359999998,19.24864838,17.69053896,17.757131079999997]}
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People of Concern - 2019

[["Refugees",3633173],["Refugee-like situation",14573],["Asylum-seekers",333878],["IDPs",1672542],["Returned refugees",6],["Stateless",118923],["Others of concern",1680593]]
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Response in 2019

Despite numerous initiatives in recent years aimed at peacefully resolving the conflicts in the disputed territories of Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and Transnistria, little progress was made in achieving lasting solutions in Eastern Europe in 2019. Ongoing small-scale military clashes continued in many locations, alongside attempts to initiate basic confidence and peace-building measures. UNHCR continued to support peace and/or peacebuilding initiatives in the sub-region under the leadership of the OSCE, the European Union and the United Nations. 
UNHCR’s key strategic objectives in the sub-region remained promoting unhindered access to territory, strengthening of national asylum procedures, and working with States to prevent and eradicate statelessness. Prospects for local integration remained limited for conflict-affected populations, some of whom have been displaced for many years. Against this backdrop, the region continued to host a considerable number of people of concern.  
Armenia continued to host some 18,000 refugees or people in a refugee-like situation - including some 14,600 Syrians seeking temporary protection in Armenia. The number of stateless persons continued to grow, with an increase of 13% (to 960) compared to 2018, as legislation to reduce the risk of statelessness remained pending.

In Azerbaijan, the number of refugees and asylum-seekers increased to almost 1,300 individuals. The estimated number of stateless persons remained close to 3,600, pending the publication of a national census undertaken during the year. By the end of 2019, some 652,300 people were internally displaced.
Belarus recorded a significant drop in the number of asylum-seekers, from almost 900 in 2018, to some 650 in 2019, with the vast majority of new arrivals from Ukraine. 
In 2019, Georgia hosted some 289,850 people of concern, the vast majority (286,200) being IDPs. During the year, more than 1,200 people applied for asylum in Georgia.
According to Government reports, the Russian Federation hosted some 112,100 people of concern, of whom 38% were refugees, 37% held temporary asylum (TA) status and 0.4% had Convention refugee status. In addition to refugees, the Russian Federation hosted 1,500 asylum-seekers and 68,200 stateless persons. 

In 2019, Ukraine hosted 4,600 refugees and asylum-seekers, with Afghans representing 22% and Syrians 14% of the total population of concern. The United Nations in Ukraine estimated that some 734,000 people were displaced from non-government-controlled areas (NGCA), with smaller numbers coming from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. There was also an estimated 35,700 (5,600 registered) stateless persons in Ukraine, with migrants and ethnic minorities such as the Roma at heightened risk of statelessness, as well as some 50,000 babies born in NGCA lacking Ukraine-issued birth certificates. A further 1.7 million people were affected by the conflict in Ukraine. 

Operations in Eastern Europe in 2019

In collaboration with the UN country team and national authorities, UNHCR continued to advocate for the inclusion of people of concern in the national action plan for the Sustainable Development Goals. The Office also developed an action plan for socio-economic integration based on regional frameworks and previous government commitments. Advocacy papers were drafted for government working groups and line ministries, emphasizing partnerships under the Global Compact on Refugees, however the absence of a government long-term vision and harmonization of strategies remained a challenge.
UNHCR intensified its advocacy at various levels, with a focus on complementary protection, legal status for mandate refugees, access to legal employment and quality refugee status determination (RSD) -
using the Global Refugee Forum (GRF) as a tool to achieve these objectives. A significant achievement was the change in the registration and documentation of new asylum-seekers, with the State Migration Service taking responsibility for the entire national asylum procedure.  The Government committed to a health insurance package from January 2020, which will provide people of concern with coverage on an equal basis to vulnerable nationals.  

Despite this progress, a number of protection gaps remained. The lack of access to legal employment for mandate refugees remained a key obstacle, likely to lead to further delays in implementing the national protection and solutions strategy. In the absence of the right to work and a secure legal status in Azerbaijan, UNHCR focused on providing direct lifesaving assistance and legal interventions. However, UNHCR was only partially able to cover the needs of the most vulnerable refugees with a cash-based subsistence allowance.
Cooperation with relevant ministries in the area of statelessness, resulted in a pledge to grant citizenship to all documented stateless persons in Azerbaijan at the High-Level Segment on Statelessness.
The continued implementation of the Quality Initiative (QIEE) project - focusing on building the capacity of State authorities, the judiciary and legal aid providers on asylum procedures - resulted in improved interviewing techniques, enhanced quality of decisions, and more frequent use of UNHCR guidance to substantiate decisions on asylum claims. Asylum authorities also increasingly relied of Article 1D of the 1951 Refugee Convention to grant refugee status. UNHCR welcomed the Government of Belarus’ pledge to accede to the statelessness conventions in 2020, pending completion of internal procedures.

The ongoing reorganization of the ministry responsible for IDPs and local integration challenged implementation of planned activities in the areas of integration, community mobilization and social protection (including sustainable livelihoods for refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless persons). UNHCR established a range of new partnerships with NGOs as part of the ongoing effort to include people of concern in government-led services and to provide complementary services to promote protection and solutions. The Government’s pledges at the High-Level Segment on Statelessness have the potential, if implemented, to substantially address statelessness-related issues in Georgia.
In Abkhazia, IDP returnees continued to be in need of assistance. The Office partnered with local and international agencies to link protection interventions, including cash assistance, to livelihood opportunities in order to promote self-reliance. This was especially important in light of possible further restrictions on freedom of movement and documentation, as well as a continued lack of clarity regarding political and property rights.


Operational Environment

Eastern Europe continues to host a significant number of people of concern to UNHCR, including refugees, IDPs, persons in refugee-like situation and stateless persons. UNHCR works to ensure that all people of concern receive protection, live in safety and dignity together with host communities, and progressively attain lasting solutions.
UNHCR will engage in strengthening the asylum system to ensure sustainability of its efforts, and will support and encourage the Governments to adjust their capacity putting more efforts into local integration programmes. In this regard, UNHCR will promote strategic partnerships with development actors by advocating for refugees’ needs to be mainstreamed in the national Sustainable Development Goals programmes as well as into national strategies.
The conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Syrian Arab Republic and Ukraine continue to impact the sub-region. UNHCR closely monitors the situation of internally displaced Ukrainians and while is it believed that since 2014 over a million Ukrainian left the country, as of 1 July 2018, 151,000 Ukrainians are still in need of international protection in neighboring and other countries.  
Unresolved conflicts in the region hinder the resolution of displacement challenges. While the basic needs of the displaced are gradually being met, many people of concern have been in a precarious situation for years and are still in need of durable solutions.
In 2019, UNHCR’s work in Eastern Europe will focus on:
  • Strengthening the quality of the national asylum systems, including refugee status determination, to ensure that people of concern to UNHCR have access to protection;
  • Supporting access to durable solutions for refugees, primarily through local integration and self-reliance activities;
  • Supporting peacebuilding initiatives in an effort to improve conditions for durable solutions and prevention of further displacement;
  • Regular monitoring of conditions in reception and temporary accommodation centres, borders, and penitentiary establishments;
  • Strengthening national legislation and procedures to prevent and reduce statelessness, and advocating accession to the two statelessness conventions;
  • Supporting government actions for and accountabilities to all people of concern, including IDPs;
  • Assisting people of concern with specific needs, while working to facilitate access to public services and livelihoods for all people of concern;
  • Work closely with relevant stakeholders on contingency planning, as required.
The overall strategy is to gradually move the focus of UNHCR’s work from direct assistance to advocacy, thus, some cash assistance will target the most vulnerable to cover acute shelter, winterization, medical, child protection, SGBV response and other specific needs. Legal aid, as well as some ad-hoc health care interventions will be provided.

Response and Implementation

The operations in the Russian Federation and Ukraine are presented in separate country chapters.
Armenia has been impacted by the arrival of Syrian refugees in recent years, and some 14,700 Syrian nationals of Armenian origin remained in the country as of 1 July 2018, in addition to some 3,300 refugees from various countries. The most vulnerable refugees will continue to benefit from support provided by UNHCR, in cooperation with the Government and NGOs, including in terms of accommodation and livelihoods. UNHCR will continue work to further strengthen the asylum procedure and improving reception conditions; pursue engagement with the law enforcement agencies to have a differentiated approach and reduce detention of asylum-seekers, and maintain coordination with partners to maximize resources and strengthen advocacy.
Azerbaijan, as of 1 July 2018, hosted some 1,115 refugees, 172 asylum-seekers and some 3,600 stateless persons, and over 612,000 IDPs. UNHCR will continue its support to the government in improving the quality of its RSD procedures and introducing and operationalizing complementary forms of protection which will hopefully result in the Government recognizing larger numbers of refugees and providing greater access to rights and services, notably the right to decent employment. As of 2017, the Government took over from UNHCR provision of primary health-care to refugees and asylum-seekers, while UNHCR will continue supporting vulnerable cases to access secondary health care. In a coalition with the Government, UN agencies and other stakeholders, UNHCR will work on SGBV prevention and response and providing legal assistance to IDPs communities.
In Belarus, UNHCR will continue its focus on supporting the Government in building an efficient and effective national asylum system, and will promote local integration and self-reliance as the most viable durable solutions for refugees in the country. As of 1 July 2018, there were 8,000 person of concern to UNHCR in Belarus, including some 5,780 stateless persons, some 2,677 refugee and 178 asylum-seekers awaiting decisions on their applications. This is in addition to some 170,000 Ukrainians who arrived since 2014 due to ongoing conflict. UNHCR is advocating Belarus’ accession to the UN Statelessness Conventions. Finally, in partnership with IOM and other UN agencies, UNHCR will support Belarus in addressing the increasing mixed movements.
In Georgia, UNHCR will support efforts by relevant stakeholders to protect and improve conditions for the integration of refugees and other displaced populations. As of 1 July 2018, some 2,000 refugees and people in refugee-like situations, some 500 asylum-seekers, some 600 stateless persons and some 280,000 IDPs were present in Georgia. UNHCR will seek to ensure that people of concern are informed of their rights, improve access to State services and expand ongoing socio-economic support based on a combination of self-reliance and employment opportunities, as well a support the most vulnerable people with cash-based interventions. UNHCR will carry out monitoring of access to territory and to the asylum procedure, as well as reception conditions, and will further strengthen the quality of national asylum procedures notably by advocating for the full and inclusive application of refugee law principles. In Abkhazia, UNHCR will continue advocating for freedom of movement, documentation and full access to all rights for the IDP returnee population as well as persons in a refugee-like situation, while also supporting the provision of sustainable livelihood opportunities for these populations.

2019 Budget and Expenditure in Eastern Europe | USD

Operation Pillar 1
Refugee programme
Pillar 2
Stateless programme
Pillar 3
Reintegration projects
Pillar 4
IDP projects
Belarus Budget
Georgia Regional Office Budget
Russian Federation Budget
Turkey Budget
Ukraine Budget
Total Budget

2019 Voluntary Contributions to Eastern Europe | USD

Earmarking / Donor Pillar 1
Refugee programme
Pillar 4
IDP projects
International Organization for Migration 87,73900 87,739
United States of America 00200,000 200,000
Belarus subtotal 87,7390200,000 287,739
Regional Office in the South Caucasus
Armenia 0098,000 98,000
Azerbaijan 7,20000 7,200
Private donors in Japan 0165,3660 165,366
United States of America 004,700,000 4,700,000
Regional Office in the South Caucasus subtotal 7,200165,3664,798,000 4,970,566
European Union 45,935,71400 45,935,714
France 568,18200 568,182
Germany 6,038,01500 6,038,015
Japan 2,678,57100 2,678,571
Norway 939,51800 939,518
Private donors in Germany 0033,525 33,525
Private donors in Sweden 00100,807 100,807
Republic of Korea 700,00000 700,000
Switzerland 15,01500 15,015
United States of America 49,900,000012,000,000 61,900,000
Turkey subtotal 106,775,015012,134,331 118,909,347
Canada 00569,909 569,909
Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) 0928,1810 928,181
Estonia 0225,4790 225,479
European Union 02,131,6730 2,131,673
Germany 001,118,568 1,118,568
Japan 0839,2860 839,286
Latvia 027,5030 27,503
Lithuania 0034,130 34,130
Norway 344,98600 344,986
Private donors in Austria 0016,593 16,593
Private donors in Germany 034,4430 34,443
Russian Federation 0250,0000 250,000
Sweden 0549,9950 549,995
United States of America 006,700,000 6,700,000
Ukraine subtotal 344,9864,986,5598,439,200 13,770,745
Total 107,214,9415,151,92525,571,531 137,938,397
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