UNHCR opens the mural “Little Citizen” in Kyiv

The mural attract attention to the importance of combating statelessness in Ukraine

The UN Refugee Agency in Ukraine (UNHCR) opened a mural in Kyiv to mark the 5th Anniversary of the Statelessness Eradication Campaign #IBelong and attract attention to the importance of combating statelessness in the country that currently has the largest number of stateless people in Europe.

The UNHCR has supported the idea of author of the mural, artist Kateryna Rudakova, who was inspired by the story in the news about a 6-year-old boy, who painted himself a passport of Ukraine with his colour pencils. With this theme the artist wanted to convey the idea that obtaining such key civic document as the passport of the citizen of Ukraine can be problematic for certain categories of the population, including the most vulnerable and the marginalized. Among the later, the Roma people are at heightened risk of statelessness.

UNHCR estimates that as of December 2018, approximately 49,649 children born in NGCAs in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts did not receive birth certificates of Ukraine, which puts them at risk of statelessness in the future. Although the legal process allows these children to obtain birth certificates in Ukraine, it is complex, time-consuming and expensive. It is difficult for families to travel to the government-controlled areas for a few days at least and wait there until the discussion of the court on issue of the document. This requires various expenses to cover transport, accommodation, fees for administrative services, which are quite costly comparing to the average salary and pensions level in Ukraine.

One of the goals of UNHCR is to help people under risks of statelessness to obtain Ukrainian citizens birth certificates and passports in order to prevent statelessness.

From June 2017 to September 2019, UNHCR and its partner NGOs identified and provided legal aid to 2,064 undocumented persons in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Zakarpatska, Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In total for 28 months, 304 persons obtained passports (including 36 foreign passports); 101 persons obtained birth certificates; and 326 persons obtained duplicates of birth certificates due to loss of documents.

“It is a frustrating reality that we have been able to get a result for only 700 out of 2,000 people we have helped in the last two years,” explained Pablo Mateu, UNHCR Representative in Ukraine. “The procedures are long, complex and costly.  Lawyers have to help people collect documents from the place they were born and where they lived.  They need documents with photos, and they have to find witnesses to confirm their identity.  It is extremely difficult for those whose documents and witnesses are in the NGCA of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as for elderly, sick and poor people.”

Though currently UNHCR covers some fees and provides free legal aid in some geographic areas, it would expand access to identity documentation if the government extended free legal aid to persons without identity documents and also waived some administrative and court fees.

In addition, UNHCR supports the introduction of a statelessness determination procedure in Ukraine.  This procedure would create a path to identity and legality for people who have no documents and no nationality.  “It is good news that the Verkhovna Rada has registered a new draft law on developing a statelessness determination procedure,” noted Mr. Mateu.  “This text was developed in a consultative manner by the Ministry of Interior, State Migration Service, members of parliament and civil society, and it reflects international legal standards.”

The UNHCR welcomes local improvements that were introduced in five regions of Ukraine: Zakarpattya, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Odesa and Kyiv. At a ceremony in Kyiv on 4 November 2019, thirteen staff members of the State Migration Service and two Civil Registry were awarded by UNHCR for their active involvement and persistent work to eradicate statelessness.

“Only five more years left before the end of campaign #IBelong. For too many people, these will be five more years in poverty, lacking access to basic services and rights. Together we must do everything possible to stop this discrimination, and to end statelessness in Ukraine,” – added Mr. Mateu.


For more information on statelessness, please visit: https://www.unhcr.org/ua/en/stateless-persons

Contact for mass media: Victoria Andrievska, [email protected], +380504138404.