Ukrainian IDPs protest against new procedure of social benefits

Activists place barbed wire on the building of the Cabinet of Ministers on 14 June 2016 in protest of IDPs discrimination. Photo: Maria Lebedeva

Activists place barbed wire on the building of the Cabinet of Ministers on 14 June 2016 in protest of IDPs discrimination. Photo: Maria Lebedeva 

Analysis & Opinion, War in the Donbas

On June 14, activists and IDPs gathered for a protest called For Our and Your Rights near the building of the Cabinet of Ministers. It was caused by recent changes to the legislation, which violate IDP rights and contradict the Constitution of Ukraine.

The government started to articulate problems with social payments to IDPs last year, stating that a part of those receiving state payments for IDPs live in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts (ORDLO).

On 19 February 2016, the Minister of Social Policy Pavlo Rozenko halted payments to 150,000 IDPs, calling them “pseudo-IDPs” and “mafia.” After the inspection that followed, nearly 450,000 people were left without payments. Only 90,000 could later have proven their rights to receive state payments. In March, Rozenko stated, referring to Ukraine’s Security Services, that 15-20% of Ukrainian payments to IDPs end up financing the Russian-backed militants in Donbas.

Today, nearly 820,000 IDPs receive social benefits from the government, but the government is still struggling to make ends meet. Thus, the Cabinet’s decree #637 amending the law “On Providing Rights and Freedoms For The Internally Displaced Persons.” It provides that IDPs who receive social payments from the state will have to be inspected to identify the place of their actual residence. T and their living conditions have to be verified as well. For this, special commissions will be created.

However, activists are concerned that these changes will bring unnecessary humiliation and complicate the lives of IDPs even more. According to Tamila Tasheva, coordinator of the volunteer initiative Crimea SOS, the inspections are to be conducted every six months.

If an IDP is not at the location of his/her registration, they need to show up to the Department of Social Protection in the course of 3 days and report that in fact they are living where they are registered. If the person fails to appear, payments are suspended and are resumed only after two months.

The Department of Social Protection will carry the main responsibility for the inspections, but the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Security Service, State Migration Service and Retirement Payments Fund will have the right to conduct unplanned ones. The causes for inspection may be official information by law enforcement and state institutions, as well as denunciation of volunteers and ordinary people.  

Caption: “The SBU should fight terrorism, not search for IDPs”, “No to police state”. Photo: informator.media

Another danger that the amendments could carry, according to activists, is the possibility that social payments to IDPs will be canceled if the inspecting commissions find that the living conditions are too high. Also, elderly people can lose their pensions if they are not at home for any reason, even if they were visiting relatives for a few days. This contradicts the 33 Article of the Constitution of Ukraine on the freedom of movement. 

Not all people fleeing the war in Donbas register as IDPs. However, those who do face many bureaucracy procedures and the fact that they go for it means that they really need help.

People label themselves as IDPs at the demonstration. Photo: Informator.media

The sum of money isn’t that large. People who are unfit to work (retired, children) should receive UAH 884 (about $35.4) per person. For disabled it is UAH 949 ($39). And for people who fit to work it is UAH 442 ($17.7) per person. The total amount of the aid for a family is accounted according to the amount of aid for every person of a family and cannot exceed UAH 2400 ($96.12). 

So on 14 June 2016, activists came to the building of the Cabinet of Ministers to protect the rights of IDPs, emphasizing that tomorrow the state can that easily violate the rights of any other category of people in Ukraine. 

Caption: “I ran away to my own people and was made an alien”. Photo: informator.media

They took posters saying “I run away to my people and was made an alien,” “Security Services should fight terrorism, but not search for IDPs,” “Groysman [Ukrainian PM – ed], have you seen what you approved?” 

Activist read the resolution against the discrimination of IDPs and demanded to develop a state policy on IDPs. In the end Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Policy Vitaliy Muschin came to the protesters and promised that the resolution will be considered in the Ministry.

The lack of state strategy is a popular topic for discussions. The strategy not only concerns IDPs, but also the temporarily occupied territories of ORDLO and Crimea, the rights of people who live there, and those who are detained there.


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Edited by: Alya Shandra

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  • Evelyn Myketa Livingston

    I think the govt should have the right to determine who does and who does not qualify for benefits. That’s not different from any other country.