Supreme Court of Ukraine takes landmark decision to protect pension rights of IDP’s

For hundreds of thousands of IDPs and other conflict-affected people, their state pension is the only form of income.

© UNHCR Ukraine

On September 4, 2018, the Grand Chamber of the Supreme Court of Ukraine upheld a landmark judgement to satisfy the claims of an internally displaced person from Donetsk region whose pension has been suspended since April 2017. The Ukrainian NGO “Right to Protection,” UNHCR’s partner organization, provided legal representation to the pensioner.

Since Novemver 2014, all pensioners with residence registration in non-government controlled areas (NGCA) of eastern Ukraine were obliged to register as IDPs to continue receiving their pension. Furthermore, since June 2016 all IDP pensioners were to undergo cumbersome verification procedures (including random home visits).  This has caused people to lose access to their pensions.  Though as of August 2014, over 1.2 million persons residing in NGCA received pensions, only 477,000 continued to receive pensions as of July 2018.  The highest court in the land has now ruled that these verification requirements do not constitute lawful grounds for termination of pension payments.

“It is time to de-link IDP registration and pensions and create a simple mechanism to pay pensions on government-controlled territory, through Ukrainian banks, to pensioners regardless of their place of permanent residence,” said Ms. Noel Calhoun, UNHCR Deputy Representative in Ukraine.

UNHCR Ukraine works with civil society organizations like Right to Protection that provide legal assistance to IDPs and others affected by the conflict.  Nearly 60% of the inquiries they receive are from pensioners who have difficulty claiming their pensions. For example, social workers with the organization Proliska are helping Natalia Ivanivna, a ninety-year old woman from the village of Novoluhanske, close to the contact line.  Her generous neighbors took her in after her house was destroyed by shelling, but now they are struggling to buy her food and medicine because the elderly woman’s monthly pension of 1800 hryvnia (about USD64) was suddenly suspended for unknown reasons.  It usually takes at least a few months to solve these bureaucratic problems, and in the meantime, vulnerable people are left without income.  UNHCR provides financial assistance in emergency cases.

It is expected that the court decision will result in simplified procedures that enable IDPs and other conflict-affected people to receive their pensions consistently and predictably like other citizens of Ukraine.

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