Across Ukraine, more and more people are becoming “visible” as they receive positive decisions from the Ukrainian state on recognition as stateless.
31 January 2022, Kyiv, Ukraine. – In 2021, Ukraine has made impressive progress in addressing statelessness in the country. The State Migration Service (SMS) of Ukraine successfully rolled out a new stateless determination procedure after the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted the Resolution “On some issues of recognition as a stateless person” in March 2021. Furthermore, in December, the Parliament of Ukraine adopted a new law 1941-IX that will allow stateless persons to apply for naturalization after three years (instead of seven) upon their recognition by the SMS.
These changes give much hope to stateless persons in Ukraine. As of 31 December 2021, the SMS had registered 737 applications from people seeking the status of a stateless person. Before the year end, the State Migration Service had issued decisions in 61 cases, in 90% of which the applicants were recognized as stateless persons. From having lived as undocumented people, they received identification documents and could access their rights.
One of such persons is Evelina, who has been living in Ukraine for 24 years without a proper identification document.
Evelina was born in Dushanbe. Her family moved to Ukraine in 1997, when she was three years old. Evelina grew up and went to study at a school in Odesa. However, when time came to apply for a passport, it turned out that the girl had no legal grounds to obtain a Ukrainian passport. Evelina therefore applied to a consulate of the Republic of Tajikistan, but the consular inspection stated that she was not a citizen of Tajikistan either.
“I was in a complicated situation, – recalls Evelina. – Without any identification document, I couldn’t work officially or register a marriage, and even when I gave birth to my daughter, it was difficult to get the birth certificate.”
Thanks to the new statelessness determination procedure, Evelina was able to receive a temporary residence permit, and could start planning for an application for Ukrainian citizenship.
“Evelina came for a consultation to our NGO – The 10th of April – a few weeks ago. She had received a confirmation from the State Migration Service of her stateless person status, and now wanted to get married to her partner and confirm him as the father of their child. She is looking forward to becoming a citizen of Ukraine. I am glad that, thanks to the new developments in a legal framework related to stateless persons, people like Evelina will now see a real solution to their situation,” said Oleksiy Yaroshenko, a lawyer at the Statelessness Unit of the UNHCR’s NGO partner, The 10th of April.
Anna, 23 years, is another stateless person who became “visible” thanks to the new procedure. Her late mother had difficulties confirming the citizenship of herself and her daughter, after they moved to Ukraine from one of the former USSR republics. However, thanks to the recent legislative developments and establishment of a statelessness determination procedure, Anna was able to obtain the status of a stateless person and received a temporary residence permit in December 2021.
“When I got my temporary residence permit, I felt like a real person – I felt visible! – said Anna, proudly showing her new ID. – The first thing I did was to officially register with my employer. After that, I have also registered to receive a medical declaration. Now, I am looking forward to travelling. I still cannot believe that I can even travel abroad! And when the new law comes into force, I can become a citizen of Ukraine!”
UNHCR welcomes these new legislative and procedural developments. Thanks to them, people who were residing in Ukraine without adequate documents can now become lawful residents in Ukraine, where most have lived all their life. They will also be able to obtain a permanent residence permit after two years, and apply to the Ukrainian citizenship three years after obtaining the status of a stateless person. Since the 1990s, UNHCR has worked extensively on identification, prevention and reduction of statelessness in Ukraine, in particular by supporting the Government of Ukraine in developing a normative framework in line with international standards. From June 2017 to June 2021, UNHCR NGO partners have provided legal support to more than 3,000 stateless people and people with undetermined nationality.
In Ukraine, UNHCR estimates that around 35,000 persons fall under its mandate on the prevention and reduction of statelessness, and protection of stateless people. A vast majority of these people group belong to vulnerable and marginalized groups, such as Roma, homeless persons, older people holding Soviet passports, and persons released without documents from penitentiaries. UNHCR continues to work with the Ukrainian authorities to improve the availability of data in this area.
UNHCR is very grateful to its donors for their support in eradicating statelessness in Ukraine, and in particular for flexible funding which enables us to ensure prompt action in supporting stateless persons in Ukraine.