Photo project under the auspices of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
“Photo on the Passport,” a photo project of the UN Refugee Agency on stateless people, is dedicated to the 5th anniversary of the #IBelong campaign (the global campaign to eradicate statelessness by 2024). Observance of this campaign is an opportunity to draw attention to the needs and problems of people who are actually “invisible” to society and the state.
Well-known Ukrainian photographer Oleksandr Chekmenev has joined the UNHCR campaign to eradicate statelessness in Ukraine. He has traveled to the remote areas of Ukraine to meet with residents of Roma settlements who do not have a Ukrainian passport, as well as with pensioners who still hold Soviet passports.
The photo project “Photo on the Passport” has also become a symbolic continuation of the state passportisation campaign in 1994. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it became necessary in the newly independent Ukraine to replace old Soviet passports with new Ukrainian ones. There was a rush to accomplish this in the shortest possible time. All Ukrainians were required to get a new passport within a year. Many citizens were shut-ins, elderly, and bedridden. Therefore, in order to take their passport pictures someone had to go from door to door with a camera. In 1995, the social services office of the city of Luhansk (in Eastern Ukraine) found that they needed a volunteer photographer. Oleksandr Chekmenev was chosen for this role. However, he didn’t just take their passport pictures. By using a camera with a wide angle, he showed the real conditions of their lives.
According to UNHCR estimates, at least 10 million people worldwide are stateless, and approximately one-third of them are children. A stateless person is a person who has no nationality in any country and therefore cannot access and exercise their fundamental human rights. This is an artificial problem and is relatively easy to solve and prevent, as long as necessary political will and public support is available.
Vironika’s family was faced with the need to prove the family’s relationship by conducting a DNA medical examination. Two teenagers from this family – Esenia and Gashpar never had any documents and were born outside of health-care facilities. The NGO NEEKA’s attorney appealed to the court to establish the birth certificates and to obtain the possibility of getting their birth certificates. Due to the absence of evidence, a DNA examination remained the only way to resolve the situation. The results of the examination showed a 99.97% probability of a blood match with the mother, and they were able to obtain their birth certificates by the decision of the appeal court. The lawyers of the NGO NEEKA are working on obtaining the Ukrainian passports for Esenia and Gashpar.
Anastasia was born in 1987 in the town of Yerofey Pavlovich, Amur region, in the Russian Federation. In 1996, at the age of nine, she moved to the village of Barkasovo (in the Transcarpathian region) with her mother. In 2004, during the fire of an outbuilding where the Gerasymchuk family resided, all their available documents were burned. As a result, without a passport, Anastasia was unable to obtain birth certificates for her eight children born in Ukraine. Only the birth certificate of Anastasia’s partner was saved. Due to the legal support of UNHCR and its partner NGO NEEKA, all her children obtained birth certificates. Lawyers continue working to obtain a residence permit and Ukrainian citizenship for Anastasia.
Tiberiy was born in 1990 in the village Barkasovo, Zakarpattya region. Since 2010, he has been living with Anastasia in a civil marriage. They are raising eight children. He only has a damaged birth certificate and a certificate from the village council of his residence. Now the whole family lives in the neighboring village of Rafailovo, where Tiberiy works as a guard on the farm. Lawyers from the NGO NEEKA are working to assist Tiberiy in obtaining a Ukrainian passport.
Zinaida was born in Berehove in 1988. Zinaida’s mother lost her birth certificate when she was a child. By the age of 30, she lived without a birth certificate and during that time gave birth to six children whom she could not register. Currently Zinaida lives with her six children outside the Roma camp in a rented house in Berehove. In 2018, with the legal aid of UNHCR and its partner NGO NEEKA, Zinaida received a duplicate of her birth certificate. To complete the procedure of identifying a person and obtaining a Ukrainian passport, her mother’s presence was obligatory. Unfortunately Zinaida’s mother hasn’t been in touch with her for eight years. Currently Zinaida and her children live without any documents and can’t get social assistance from the government.
Natalia was born in 1958 on the territory of USSR, the Republic of Crimea in the Krasnogvardiysk district, in the village of Vavilove. In 1978 she obtained a USSR passport in Crimea. Natalia studied at school and then followed with technical school in Crimea until 1991. In 2000, she moved to the mainland of Ukraine, but did not obtain a Ukrainian passport on time for personal reasons. Currently, she cannot obtain a passport due to the lack of form №1, which remains in the occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
Iryna was born in 1965 in Shakhtarsk, Ukraine. From 1985 to 1995, she lived in the Russian Federation. Since 1995, she has lived in Artemivsky district of Donetsk oblast. She has a USSR passport, but her birth and marriage certificates were lost. She requires an application to the Consulate of the Russian Federation to establish her citizenship of the Russian Federation. She also suffers from cancer. The lawyers of CF «Right to Protection» received a duplicate of her marriage certificate from the Russian Federation and the Ukrainian birth certificate. The work on establishing her citizenship continues.
Hennadii was born in Donetsk oblast, Ukraine. Due to the conflict, he moved to the government controlled area. He doesn’t have any documents because they were lost. Hennadii had a Ukrainian passport but cannot renew it because the database remained in the non-government controlled area. The lawyers of CF «Right to Protection» were able to obtain a duplicate of his birth certificate, but to date there is no way to confirm that Hennadii is a citizen of Ukraine.
Maksym was born in Russia, Nadym city, in 1985. In 1986, he moved with his mother to Ukraine, Sloviansk city. For some reason he did not receive his passport on time, but all his life he studied and worked in Ukraine. Due to the untimely application, and his birth in RF, he could not get a Ukrainian passport. Currently, Maksym has lost his sight and has no access to medical treatment or the status of a person with a disability due to the lack of a passport. With CF «Right to Protection» legal assistance, Maksym obtained a duplicate of his birth certificate. The lawyers are preparing a lawsuit confirming Maksym’s residence in Ukraine with his mother in 1991.
Tetiana was born in Ukraine and has been living here all her life. She moved to Russia where she got married in 1990-1991. She had a Soviet passport, however, all the current documents are lost. Before the conflict, she resided in Makiivka, Donetsk oblast. Nowadays, Tetiana doesn’t have her own place to live so she stays in a church in Sloviansk. She cannot obtain a passport because all her documents were lost, and so far, Tetiana cannot manage to renew the marriage certificate in Russia to confirm the change of her surname.
Ali was born in the non-government controlled area, then moved with his father to the government controlled area. He has a birth certificate with a mistake in his father’s data. He cannot obtain the Ukrainian passport because his father doesn’t have a passport. Without these passports, neither Ali nor his father can make amendments to the State Register of Civil Acts to get a birth certificate. He cannot keep studying because he doesn’t have a passport.
Soib was born in Tajikistan. He moved to Ukraine in 1992 and obtained the Ukrainian residence permit. He has a USSR passport, and a military ID. He cannot obtain a Ukrainian passport because he is not able to confirm his residency or the absence of Tadjik citizenship.
Arthur was born in 1963 in the city of Kramatorsk, USSR. From 1990 to 1997 he served his sentence in the RSFSR. During his release, his USSR passport was lost. He returned to Ukraine shortly after his release and continued to reside in Kramatorsk. Lawyers from the CF «Right to Protection» assisted Arthur in obtaining from the Consulate of RF a response to Arthur’s non-citizenship of the Russian Federation. According to the legislation of Ukraine, Arthur is not a citizen of Ukraine. Arthur worked without a passport, and was even registered as an entrepreneur and paid taxes. He personally collected a number of documents for obtaining the Ukrainian citizenship. But when he applied, he could not obtain it due to some difficulties, and he missed the opportunity to apply for a residence permit. With UNHCR legal aid Arthur is re-collecting a package of documents for a Ukrainian residence permit, which will allow him to apply for Ukrainian citizenship in the future.
Oleh was born in Ukraine in 1995, and has lived in Donetsk oblast all his life. He has no documents. His mother has a USSR passport, and is a beggar. His father died in 2009. He cannot obtain a passport because he cannot confirm the nationality of his parents. He worked and lived in the circus for a while. He does not have his own housing. He has temporary earnings. To date, the lawyers from CF «Right to Protection» assisted him in obtaining a duplicate of his birth certificate. They are working on the establishment of the citizenship of Oleh’s father, in order to determine Oleh’s citizenship.
Anatolii was born in the Russian Federation (USSR) and moved to Ukraine in 1990. He had a USSR passport, however, it is currently lost. Since 1993, he has been employed in Druzhkivka, and has a work record. His birth certificate and passport have been lost. He was in captivity/slavery. He does not have his own housing. He lives in Donetsk oblast in a production warehouse, and works illegally. To date, the lawyers from CF «Right to Protection» assisted him in obtaining a duplicate of his birth certificate. The lawyers are preparing a lawsuit to establish a fact for further appeal to the State Migration Service to issue a Ukrainian passport.
Anna was born in Horlivka, Donetsk oblast in Ukraine. After the conflict began Anna moved to the government controlled area with her mother. She has a birth certificate and an IDP certificate. However, Anna cannot obtain a passport because her mother doesn’t have Ukrainian citizenship. Anna cannot study because she doesn’t have a passport.
Olena was born in Sukhumi, Georgia. She left the country in the early 1990s due to military conflict. Her mother was shot in Georgia, so Olena had to flee to Ukraine. She obtained the Ukrainian residence permit. She never had a passport and her birth certificate was lost earlier in Georgia. There is no possibility to renew it because Olena was born in Abkhazia. She lived in Horlivka, Donetsk oblast. Due to the conflict in Donetsk oblast, Olena moved to the government controlled area of Ukraine with her children. She is a single mother with six children.
Serhii was born in the Russian Federation and moved to Ukraine in 1996. He has a USSR passport. In 2012 his legs were amputated. Currently he is living in a church in Donetsk oblast. For identification of citizenship, Serhii has to go to the Russian Consulate in Kharkiv.
Oleksandr was born on May 10, 1999 in Mukachevo city with a birth certificate. He did not receive a Ukrainian passport in time. His father died, and his mother does not have enough money to support the whole family. Oleksandr is diagnosed with a mental disability. Without a passport he cannot register with a family doctor and get proper medical help from specialists. There are three more adult children in the Brynzachka family who do not have Ukrainian passports. At the moment, lawyers from the NGO NEEKA are working on documentation for all the children in this family.
Heorhii was born in Ukrainian SSR. He studied here during the Soviet time. He worked in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, and then he came back to Ukraine in 1991. After he was fraudulently deprived of his apartment, Heorhii was driven to a village where he lived at random people’s places with a Soviet passport. Nowadays he is living in a church in Kramatorsk. His Soviet passport was lost and he only has a military ID left. He cannot obtain a passport because he lived in Russia and Ukraine in 1991. Heorhii cannot confirm his Ukrainian citizenship due to the lack of documents. The СF «Right to Protection» lawyers assisted Heorhii in obtaining a duplicate of his birth certificate and documents confirming his employment in Ukraine. The work on establishing his citizenship continues.