Ukraine flag

Ukraine Ukraine RSS Feed

2015 UNHCR subregional operations profile - Eastern Europe

| Overview |

UNHCR 2015 Eastern Europe subregional operations map

Major challenges in Eastern Europe for UNHCR are often linked to the priority given by governments to political and social considerations, which can leave national asylum systems either dysfunctional or lagging far behind international standards. Recognition rates generally remain fairly low, and some countries are resorting to complementary forms of protection instead of recognition based on the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Resettlement continues to be the only durable solution for many people of concern.

The impact of the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria) has also been felt in the subregion, particularly in Turkey. The continued mass influx of refugees has placed considerable pressure on the country's protection and response capacity. In addition to Syrian refugees, there are increasing numbers of arrivals from Afghanistan and Iraq: more than 81,000 refugees had arrived in Turkey by September 2014, with the overall number of new arrivals expected to reach 100,000 by the end of 2014.

The second year of implementation for the Asylum Systems Quality Initiative in Eastern Europe and the Southern Caucasus (QIEE) has positively affected the national asylum systems at both institutional and individual levels.

Positive developments in Eastern Europe included accession by Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova to the UN's Statelessness Conventions, while the latter is also working towards statelessness determination procedures. Georgia has acceded to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and started a status determination procedure. The Russian Federation's adoption of an amendment to its citizenship law aims to address statelessness. It estimated that Eastern Europe hosts around 250,000 stateless people.

UNHCR protects and assists internally displaced people (IDPs) in most countries in the region. The growing humanitarian needs in Ukraine require an urgent response. As of mid-September, more than 275,000 people had been displaced in Ukraine. Some 172,000 people had applied for asylum in neighbouring countries in Europe, including more than 168,000 people in the Russian Federation. A further 149,000 applied for other forms of legal stay in the Russian Federation.

In addition to newly emerging situations, UNHCR's work in Eastern Europe will focus on:

  • Strengthening national asylum systems, including by improving legislative frameworks and procedures and increasing the capacity of local authorities, while continuing direct interventions where needed.

  • Continuing the search for durable solutions, with a focus on return and local integration.

  • Advocating the prevention and reduction of statelessness, as well as accession to the UN Statelessness Conventions, and supporting relevant national legislation and procedures.

  • Further developing partnerships with Governments and other stakeholders on refugee protection and mixed migration.

  • Engaging with UNDP and other development and humanitarian partners to improve the livelihoods of people of concern.

| Response and implementation |

The operation in Turkey is presented in a separate country chapter. For other countries in which UNHCR operates in the subregion, please see below.

In Armenia, UNHCR will assist the authorities in building their asylum institutions. It will help to strengthen the national legal framework governing the protection of refugees and stateless people so that it is in line with international standards. Focused assistance will be provided to the most vulnerable individuals, and local partners and institutions will be mobilized to support refugees' local integration. UNHCR will continue to contribute to collective efforts by the Government, UN agencies and the NGO community to meet the needs of approximately 12,000 people displaced from Syria who found protection in Armenia.

The Office will cooperate with the authorities in Azerbaijan to strengthen the national asylum system. It will seek an amendment to the current refugee legislation that establishes a subsidiary protection mechanism. Vulnerable refugees in urban areas will receive assistance. At the same time, UNHCR will advocate the protection of IDPs and provide them with free legal aid and self-reliance assistance. UNHCR will support the Government's commitment to identify the scope of statelessness in the country and establish a statelessness determination procedure.

The intent of Belarus, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine to comply with European standards provides UNHCR with opportunities for constructive engagement. Focus areas will include: enhancing compliance with international standards, particularly on protection-sensitive approaches to asylum based on the QIEE; continuing protection monitoring to ensure access to territory and asylum procedures; using resettlement as a protection tool; mapping statelessness and developing a statelessness determination procedure (Ukraine), and supporting the implementation of a new statelessness determination procedure (the Republic of Moldova); as well as encouraging Governments to assist extremely vulnerable people. UNHCR's engagement with the judiciary will remain vital. The IDP situation in Ukraine necessitated adjustments to the operation, with a focus on providing technical advice to the Government on a variety of protection issues and relevant legislation, enhancing protection monitoring and assuring humanitarian assistance for the most vulnerable IDPs. This situation is likely to continue into 2015.

In Georgia, the strategy will also focus on the effective implementation of national and international legislation, and efforts to protect and improve the living conditions of displaced people. It will include: monitoring the protection situation while providing limited direct assistance; pursuing durable solutions for refugees through naturalization and local integration; seeking local integration for IDPs pending their return; advocating the harmonization of national legislation and more assistance to IDPs, with attention on livelihoods for people of concern in Abkhazia, the reduction of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), and the provision of legal aid to all IDPs; and monitoring the progress and implementation of transitional livelihood programmes.

In the Russian Federation, UNHCR will focus on quality assurance measures to strengthen the national asylum system, including improving access to the system at borders, and will seek to enhance partnership with the authorities. The Office will pursue durable solutions by helping improve legal and social avenues for integration, while providing others, including those with particular vulnerabilities, with resettlement options. UNHCR's cooperation with the Russian authorities will focus on finding solutions for long-staying asylum-seekers who have been unable to regularize their situation in the country. The organization will continue to advocate measures to reduce statelessness, both within and outside the borders of the Russian Federation. It will also seek easier access to citizenship for former USSR citizens, as well as accession by the Russian Federation to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions.

| Financial information |

Between 2011 and 2015, UNHCR's financial requirements in Eastern Europe have fluctuated from USD 84.6 million in 2011 to a 2015 budget of USD 365.7 million. The financial requirements in Turkey have risen dramatically, as they have, to a lesser extent, in Armenia, Georgia and some other countries. Excluding Turkey, the 2015 subregional budget amounts to USD 45.5 million, compared to USD 46.5 million in 2014.

Since 2011, the subregion has seen decreases in several operations' budgets, primarily due to UNHCR's gradual withdrawal from direct operational involvement with IDPs in a number of countries. However, the response to the IDP situation in Ukraine in 2014 explains the overall budget increase.

UNHCR 2015 budgets for Eastern Europe (USD)
Operation 2014
Revised budget
(as of 30 June 2014)
Total 353,033,895 353,739,292 2,425,566 9,527,290 365,692,148
1. Includes activities in Belarus and Republic of Moldova.
Armenia 5,255,334 6,122,127 102,341 0 6,224,468
Azerbaijan 5,851,001 4,324,490 328,525 1,196,986 5,850,001
Georgia 14,351,540 5,458,157 556,293 8,330,304 14,344,755
Russian Federation 7,092,269 5,722,246 358,406 0 6,080,652
Turkey 306,553,430 320,091,960 70,000 0 320,161,960
Ukraine Regional Office[1] 13,930,322 12,020,312 1,010,001 0 13,030,313

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2015 Update

UNHCR contact information

The UNHCR Regional Representation
Style of Address The UNHCR Regional Representative in Ukraine
Street Address 14, Lavrska Street, 01015 Kyiv, Ukraine
Mailing Address 14, Lavrska Street, 01015 Kyiv, Ukraine
Telephone 380 44 288 9424
Facsimile 380 44 288 9850
Time Zone GMT + 2
Working Hours
Monday:9:00 - 17:30
Tuesday:9:00 - 17:30
Wednesday:9:00 - 17:30
Thursday:9:00 - 17:30
Friday:9:00 - 17:30
Public Holidays 01 January 2016, New years day
07 January 2016, christmas (orthodox)
08 March 2016, International women's day
02 May 2016, Orthodox easter monday
09 May 2016, Victory and commemoration day
20 June 2016, orthodox trinity
24 August 2016, independence day
14 October 2016, Defender of Ukraine
25 December 2016, Christmas catholic



UNHCR contact information

Statistical Snapshot*
* As at June 2015
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained. In the absence of Government figures, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in many industrialized countries based on 10 years of individual asylum-seeker recognition.
  3. Persons whose applications for asylum or refugee status are pending as at 30 June 2015 at any stage in the asylum procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015. Source: country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and assistance. It also includes people in IDP-like situations. This category is descriptive in nature and includes groups of persons who are inside their country of nationality or habitual residence and who face protection risks similar to those of IDPs but who, for practical or other reasons, could not be reported as such.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015.
  7. Refers to persons who are not considered as nationals by any State under the operation of its law. This category refers to persons who fall under the agency's statelessness mandate because they are stateless according to this international definition, but data from some countries may also include persons with undetermined nationality.
  8. Refers to individuals who do not necessarily fall directly into any of the other groups but to whom UNHCR may extend its protection and/or assistance services. These activities might be based on humanitarian or other special grounds.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Ukraine [1]
Refugees [2] 3,232
Asylum Seekers [3] 6,169
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 1,382,000
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 35,179
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 1,426,580
Originating from Ukraine [1]
Refugees [2] 318,786
Asylum Seekers [3] 20,754
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 1,382,000
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 5
Total Population of Concern 1,721,545
Government Contributions to UNHCR
Contributions since 2000
2014 0
2013 0
2012 125,000
2011 0
2010 0
2009 0
2008 0
2007 0
2006 0
2005 0
2004 0
2003 0
2002 0
2001 0
2000 0

Ukraine UNHCR Fundraising Reports Rss FeedUNHCR Fundraising Reports

more documents

Ukraine UNHCR Maps Rss FeedUNHCR Maps

more documents

Ukraine: Sorting through the Wreckage

Conflict has changed the city of Sloviansk in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. "We used to have such a beautiful, calm, tidy city," says Angelina, a social worker. Today, it is full of destroyed homes and infrastructure, a casualty of the fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian forces. More than half of the inhabitants - some 70,000 people - fled the city during the combat earlier this year. In recent weeks, with the city back under government control, some 15,000 have returned. But they face many challenges. Maria, aged 80, returned to a damaged home and sleeps in the kitchen with her family. She worries about getting her pension. The UN refugee agency has transported several tons of hygiene items and kitchen equipment to the city for distribution to those who lost their homes. Photojournalist Iva Zimova recently accompanied UNHCR staff as they visited more than 100 families to give put aid.

Ukraine: Sorting through the Wreckage

Displacement, Disability and Uncertainty in Ukraine

To date, around 275,500 people have been displaced by fighting in Ukraine. They include some who live with disability, including Viktoria, aged 41, and her husband, Aleksandr, 40, who both have cerebral palsy. Life is difficult enough under normal circumstances for the couple, who also have two sons; 20-year-old Dima, and Ivan aged 19 months. Now it has become a real struggle.

At the end of July, shelling in the eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk forced Viktoria and Aleksandr to flee to the neighbouring Kharkiv region. It wasn't long before Viktoria's medication ran out. In a desperate bid to help, Aleksandr called the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation, which found them transportation and accommodation in Kharkiv.

From there, they were taken to the Promotei Summer Camp, located near the town of Kupiansk. The forest, fresh air and a lake near the camp offered a perfect setting to spend the summer. But, like 120 other internally displaced people (IDP) living there, all Viktoria and Aleksandr could think about was home. They had hoped to return by the Autumn. But it soon came and went.

Today, it is still not safe to go back to Donetsk. Moreover, the camp has not been prepared for the coming winter and the administration has asked people to leave by October 15. Neither Viktoria nor Aleksandr know where they and their young son can go next. The following photographs of the couple and their youngest child were taken by Emine Ziyatdinova.

Displacement, Disability and Uncertainty in Ukraine

Ukraine: Helping Hands Play video

Ukraine: Helping Hands

Ukrainian individuals and organizations, like Everybody Can Help, have been helping people displaced by the conflict in eastern Ukraine with clothing, food and other aid items. The volunteers at Everybody Can Help have helped more than 25,000 people.

Ukraine: Destruction in DonetskPlay video

Ukraine: Destruction in Donetsk

Alexander Kovalenko is one of the last people still living on his street in Donetsk, where the conflict in eastern Ukraine has left a trail of destruction. His home was struck by six shells and the roof was blown off. Now Alexander lives amid the rubble, in a little room he has fixed up, waiting for peace to return.

Ukraine: Returning and RebuildingPlay video

Ukraine: Returning and Rebuilding

The small town of Nikishino stood on the frontline of the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Two weeks into the ceasefire, 200 people have returned there determined to rebuild.

Ukraine: Underground SiegePlay video

Ukraine: Underground Siege

The shelling in Ukraine has driven 1,000 Donetsk residents underground. Afraid to venture outside, they still maintain a spirit of generosity.

Ukraine: Destroyed TownPlay video

Ukraine: Destroyed Town

Nikishino is a town of 900 people on the frontline in Ukraine. Fighting here was so intense that only four people were able to stay in Nikishino from August until the ceasefire in mid-February.

Ukraine: Escape to KyivPlay video

Ukraine: Escape to Kyiv

Fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine has brought destruction and displacement to the towns of Debaltseve, Avdiivka and Svitlodar. Liubov, pictured, recalls the terror experienced by her family.

Ukraine: Displaced from homePlay video

Ukraine: Displaced from home

In the southern region of Ukraine, near the city of Mariupol, a number of small villages found themselves under attack. Homes were destroyed and for some elderly people staying in their homes was no longer possible.

Ukraine: A Summer Camp RefugePlay video

Ukraine: A Summer Camp Refuge

Normally, the Promotei camp hosts holidaymakers during Summer. But this year, it provided shelter for more than 100 Ukrainians forced by fighting to flee their homes in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine: Baby Born In ConflictPlay video

Ukraine: Baby Born In Conflict

Sasha was born just as the fighting started in Ukraine. He and his mother struggled to survive.

Ukraine: Displacement TraumaPlay video

Ukraine: Displacement Trauma

Across Eastern Ukraine, thousands face internal exile, lost homes and jobs and a very uncertain future.

Ukraine: Displaced at Home Play video

Ukraine: Displaced at Home

In Eastern Ukraine, officially hundreds of thousands have left their homes, including Tamara who found herself in exile in her own town.