“Komsomolskaia Pravda” looked into specifics of the document submitted to the People’s Council for consideration
It was decided to handle the issues of displaced persons at the legislative level in the Donetsk People’s Republic. The relevant draft law has been prepared. It has been submitted to the DPR People’s Council to be considered and adopted. Whereas in Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada has frozen several bills dealing with problems of IDPs. The Cabinet of Ministers, however, keeps drafting bills that contradict the Ukrainian Constitution and its legislation.
In the Donetsk People’s Republic, the DPR Human Rights Ombudsman Daria Morozova has initiated this issue, which is vital for hundreds of thousands of citizens. “Komsomolskaia Pravda” asked the Ombudsman to tell about the situation of displaced persons and the draft law “On forcibly displaced persons”.
WHAT GUARANTEES THE REPUBLIC PROVIDES
— Why was it so important to adopt such a document in the Republic. How will it change the lives of citizens?
— After five years since the beginning of the armed conflict, many residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions have been forced to leave their homes. They are people who organized a referendum in 2014, stood at checkpoints and their relatives. Due to well-founded fears for their lives and the lives of their relatives, and to the persecution by Ukraine, these people were forced to move to the territory of the DPR seeking safety. These residents of Donbass and other regions of Ukraine lost everything they owned. They especially needed the support of our state.
Much has been done during these years to ensure that affected people not only have a shelter, but also have the opportunity to settle in a new place and find a job.
Therefore, in order to secure the status of displaced persons in the Republic and ensure the appropriate guarantees for them, I, as the Human Rights Ombudsman, turned to authorities that have the right of legislative initiative. At the end of 2018, I submitted the draft law “On forcibly displaced persons” to the Head of the DPR Denis Pushilin and the deputies of the People’s Council.
The document establishes economic, social and legal guarantees to protect displaced persons, their rights and freedoms in the territory of the Republic. In particular, the right to receive medical care, social benefits and payments will be guaranteed. Also, displaced persons will be assisted in the restoration or issue of documents and in a job search. In addition, it provides for moving in long-term accommodation centres.
Some changes might still be made to the draft law. This is a natural process of adopting such documents. But the foundation has already been created for the ministries and state bodies (the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, the Migration Service and others) to develop their internal documents based on it. In this way, we will avoid the problems faced by IDPs in Ukraine. Our law will provide an effective mechanism to assist persons in difficult situations and protect their rights.
Moving to a dormitory – usually displaced persons have very few things with them. Photo: ombudsmandnr.ru
PERSONS ELIGIBLE FOR THIS STATUS
— What categories of citizens can be granted the status of a displaced person? How many such persons are there?
— Citizens affected as a result of hostilities, as well as those persecuted for the support of the Donetsk People’s Republic, can be granted the status of a forcibly displaced person. At the moment, there are 7163 people registered as displaced persons. About two and a half thousand live in social housing objects. The rest of them rent apartments. By the way, many families still live in houses and flats of Donbass residents who responded to other people’s trouble in 2014-2015 and let the affected persons live in their homes.
One of the important issues for us was to determine the categories of displaced persons, given the specifics of the conflict in Ukraine and in Donbass. There are actually a lot of categories. Among them, residents of the frontline and buffer territory; those who have completely or partially destroyed housing as a result of hostilities; people pursued by Ukraine for nationality and political opinion. There is a new category – persons persecuted for religious reasons, as we can see oppression against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Other categories are former prisoners – people who returned to the territory of the DPR as a result of the exchange – and former militiamen, including servicemen who protected the Republic and have a registration in the territory under control of Kiev – those are defenders of the DPR, who came to us, in particular, from Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and then left military service due to health or other reasons. They will have the opportunity to reside in accommodation centres and enjoy other rights and privileges granted to displaced persons.
THE RIGHTS COME WITH RESPONSIBILITY
— How the state assists displaced persons?
— Those in need were provided with a bed (or a room for a family) in a social housing object. There are social benefits and targeted humanitarian assistance – food, clothes and hygiene products. Displaced persons are granted free medical care.
Also, we cooperate with international humanitarian organizations. One of them provides food packages once in three months, and the other one has recently provided bedding sets.
— Is there any time restriction on enjoying the status of a displaced person?
— The status of a temporarily displaced person is granted for one year with the right to further extension. Someone, for example, may buy their own real estate. But there are people who violate the rules of residing in the accommodation centres. Or they are not willing to work – they are satisfied with the present situation, they have some place to live and receive humanitarian aid. In fact, people become dependents. Of course, we are not speaking about people who are in a situation of distress. In particular, former prisoners. They need a long period of physical and psychological rehabilitation.
The draft law not only envisages guarantees, but also the responsibility of displaced persons to observe the established rules.
I would like to pay special attention to utility rates. In Ukraine, there are scandals in camps where displaced persons live in connection with the increased utility tariffs. In the DPR, as you know, the utility rates have not changed. In addition, we have agreed that the supplying organizations would set minimum rates for displaced persons. So, the payment does not include corridors, bathrooms and storage spaces. But there are such displaced persons who are not satisfied even with these conditions. This is to the subject of dependents.
With the assistance of the Ombudsman, 1,500 bedding sets were delivered to war-affected residents. Photo: ombudsmandnr.ru
MANY FACE DIFFICULTIES DUE TO IGNORANCE
— How often do displaced persons turn to your Office for assistance? What are their complaints? Do you manage to help them?
— They call us and visit the Ombudsman’s Office almost every day. We do have a Working group that deals with problems of citizens who find themselves in a difficult life situation. Most of the problems are related to the absence of identity documents, humanitarian aid and accommodation.
A few days ago, a mother of many children asked me to help with baby food. She has a difficult financial situation, one of the children has cancer. We explained where to go and how to properly prepare the documents. As a result, the woman receives assistance on a regular basis instead of a one-time basis.
There are hundreds of similar situations. In fact, most people suffer from a lack of knowledge about the existing procedures, programs, and social guarantees in the Republic. By the way, we regularly conduct awareness-raising meetings in social housing centres to inform the residents about the possibility of receiving additional humanitarian aid and documents necessary for this.
— Speaking about documents… A woman from Avdeevka moved to Donetsk after the city was occupied by Ukrainian forces. She decided not to obtain the IDP status. The problem is that she cannot obtain a DPR passport as she doesn’t have any relatives or friends who could register her in their place. Does this draft law imply mechanisms to resolve such problems? Is it possible to register such people in a dormitory – without allocation of housing – as a way out?
— At the moment, there is a mechanism for the resolution of such problems. According to the Decree of the Head of DPR of 16 November 2016 No. 393, citizens may turn to the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection to obtain a certificate of registration as a displaced person. After that, a referral for registration in a social housing object is issued. When a person has a residence registration, he/she can apply for a passport of a citizen of the Donetsk People’s Republic in the Migration Service of the MFA DPR.