8 February 2022, Milove, Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in coordination with Luhansk Oblast Civil Military Administration and with financial support from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), has refurbished the reception area and sanitary facilities at Milove international border crossing point (IBCP) in eastern Ukraine so people can cross in safety and dignity.
A new heated waiting hall and reception area for people using the Milove IBCP was officially opened today by Ms. Karolina Lindholm Billing, UNHCR Representative in Ukraine, Mr. Serhiy Haidai, Head of Luhansk Regional Civil-Military Administration, Mr. David Sevcik, Technical Advisor of ECHO, Mr. Yuriy Petriv, Head of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine in Luhansk oblast, Mr. Andriy Radchenko, Head of Custom Service in Luhansk oblast, Mr. Oleg Savchenko, Head of Milove village council, Mr. Vitaiy Kononov, Head of Starobel’sk district administration, and Mr. Roman Reshetnyak, Head of Starobelsk district council.
UNHCR, with funding from ECHO, began works to establish modular reception structures with electrical systems and heaters and WC facilities accessible for persons with disabilities at Milove IBCP in October last year, after seeing a large increase in the number of people using this crossing point.
“When most of the regular Exit-Entry Checkpoints (EECPs) along the line of contact in eastern Ukraine remained partially or completely closed due to the protracted Covid-19 situation, more and more residents of the Non-Government Controlled Areas (NGCAs) of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts started using Milove IBCP to enter Government-Controlled Areas of Ukraine to meet their family members and access civil document and social protections such as pensions. A high percentage of people crossing from NGCAs to GCA are older persons and persons with specific needs or vulnerabilities such as disability”, explained Karolina Lindholm Billing. “The waiting area and facilities at Milove IBCP didn’t have the capacity to receive such a large number of people, and many had to wait for hours without protection from the wind and cold, or access to bathroom facilities.”
The international border crossing point at Milove is the only crossing point in Luhansk region between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
“Covid-19 related restrictions have been a major challenge for civilians seeking to cross the EECPs into GCA, therefore impacting the number of people seeking to cross by passing through the Russian Federation. We observed that crossings at IBCP Milove increased from a daily average of 150 to 780, with peaks of up to 1,600 daily crossings. We are very grateful to our international partners for their timely support. Now we can ensure better services for people at this crossing point.” – said Mr. Serhiy Haidai, the Head of Luhansk Regional State Administration.
“I am crossing the border two times per year, as my parents live on different sides of the contact line. Before all this new equipment was installed, I remember big lines on this crossing point, especially for those who travelled to or from non-government-controlled territories. Some people even had to stay overnight, they would bring their blankets and sleep under the canopy. So, really, it is much better now,” – sad Ivan Korkishko, who lives in Milove and regularly crosses through Milove ICBP.
Boards with information about administrative and social services available in GCA have also been set up at the reception area. UNHCR’s NGO partner Right to Protection (R2P) is present at Milove IBCP every working day to monitor the dignity of crossing conditions and provide information and legal counselling to NGCA residents about procedures for obtaining birth certificates for children born in NGCAs, renewal of identity and civil documents, and access pensions.
“I am 91 and my husband is 95. We cross to receive our pensions. We are so grateful that we get help with telephone application and with proper recording of our details. I have no idea what we would do without this help,” – commented Varvara Nikishyna from Luhansk after she was consulted by the R2P staff member, Ruslan Prudius.
Since 2015, UNHCR and its NGO partners have provided infrastructural and mobility support, information and legal and social counselling at EECPs to facilitate civilians’ freedom of movement across the line of contact. The works at Milove IBCP is a continuation of this support, enabling people to maintain family links and access basic rights and services in safety and dignity.