Human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina on the plight of Ukrainian refugees

posted 24 Nov 2014, 03:32 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Nov 2014, 03:40 ]
17 November 2014

By Svetlana Gannushkina

In the words of Svetlana Gannushkina, chair of the Civic Assistance Commiteee: "Up until 22 July, refugees from Ukraine were granted temporary refuge. This is not the same as being given the status of 'refugee', a status granted only in cases where an individual is subject to persecution or serious danger; it is an extra form of protection for those at risk because of the general situation prevailing in the region where they live.

Decree No 691 adopted on 22 July 2014 by the Government of the Russian Federation confirmed that Ukrainian citizens arriving in Russia in large-scale emergency displacements would be allocated to the various subjects of the Russian Federation, but stated that Moscow, the Moscow and Rostov regions and St Petersburg, as well as the Crimea and Sevastapol, would be wholly absolved from any obligation to accept would-be refugees.

The Decree gives no clue as to the meaning of the words 'The subjects of the Russian Federation shall accept Ukrainian citizens and stateless persons in 2014', or the obligations incumbent upon the authorities of these subjects in this respect.

The Moscow Administration of the Federal Migration Service issued an immediate and categorical refusal to work with anyone arriving from Ukraine or to accept any documents relating to their status. A number of Ukrainian citizens who contacted us and who had parents or wealthy children in Moscow were able to obtain assistance from the Russian Federal Migration Service.

St Petersburg appeared until recently to comply with the announcement regarding the granting of temporary refuge by providing applicants with nothing more than the relevant legal status. This interpretation of Decree No 691 was confirmed by the Deputy Director of the Russian Federal Migration Service, Nikolai Matveyevich Smorodin. It is however now apparent that St Petersburg is following in Moscow’s footsteps.

The Crimea is even refusing to accept Ukrainian citizens whose close relatives live there and who were until recently citizens of the same country". 

Translated by Joanne Reynolds