World Refugee Day was proclaimed by a decision of the United Nations General Assembly in 2000. Fifty years earlier, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established, which is the leading humanitarian agency to assist refugees, protecting their rights throughout the world.
The definition of the legal status of this category of persons is governed by two international treaties – the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol to it. The Convention provides for the following rights of refugees: the right to protection against expulsion (except when these persons pose a threat to the security of the country or are convicted of committing grave crimes), the right to protection from punishment for illegal crossing the border, the right to be hired, the right to housing, the right to education, the right to social support, the right to religious belief, the right to appeal to court, the right to free movement, the right to receive an identity card.
In accordance with the norms of international law, the following persons shall be considered refugees:
– Persons who left their country “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion”, as well as due to natural disasters and man-made disasters;
– stateless persons who often do not have citizenship as a result of discrimination of certain groups of the population by the state, which is an obstacle to obtaining services in the field of health care, education, employment etc.;
– returnees – persons who voluntarily return to their country of origin;
– internally displaced persons who do not cross the international border, but for some reason are forced to move to its other region.
It is difficult to calculate the total number of refugees who left Donbass due to the armed aggression of the criminal regime, which came to power in Ukraine as a result of the coup d’état in 2014. Only in the Russian Federation, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, there are about half a million of such refugees.
Owing to hostilities, many Donbass residents on both sides of the contact line were forced to leave their homes. Currently, about one and a half million people have received the status of internally displaced persons in the territory of Ukraine. Since there is a requirement to be registered as an IDP to obtain pension and social benefits for people residing in the Donetsk People’s Republic, it is difficult to estimate the exact number of IDPs. Furthermore, the requirement creates discriminatory conditions and additional bureaucratic obstacles for people to obtain payments due to them.
The Human Rights Ombudsman in the Donetsk People’s Republic pays special attention to the protection and enforcement of the rights and freedoms of IDPs – those who suffered from injuries or material damage as a result of hostilities and people persecuted by other states for supporting the Donetsk People’s Republic. So, thanks to the cooperation established with international organizations, citizens of this category are regularly provided with humanitarian aid, which includes food, hygiene products and household chemicals. Clothes, shoes, household items and appliances are also provided, work is being done to improve living conditions in social facilities, cultural and leisure activities, psychological support is being provided, as well as assistance in finding employment and re-issuing documents.
In addition, at the end of 2018, as part of exercising the right of the Human Rights Ombudsman to appeal to the subjects of legislative initiative, the DPR Ombudsman had submitted a draft law On Displaced Persons to the Head of the DPR and deputies of the People’s Council. The document determines the status of internally displaced persons and establishes economic, social and legal guarantees to protect their rights and freedoms in the territory of the Republic.