An estimated 10,000 Ukrainians are internally displaced as a result of the current conflict in the country, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday, and the number is rising.
“A needs assessment has recently been completed and we are working closely with local authorities, other UN agencies, and NGO partners to help those who are most affected,” UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva. “So far this includes providing legal assistance, integration grants for 150 families, cash assistance for 2,000 people, and improved shelters for 50 families.”
The displacement in Ukraine started before Crimea held its referendum in March on separating from the Kiev government and then being annexed by Russia, and has been rising since.
Some of those affected have been displaced twice, first in Crimea and then again in eastern Ukraine.
Ethnic Tatars make up majority of the internally displaced people (IDP), but local authorities say that there has been a recent increase in registrations of ethnic Ukrainians, Russians, and mixed families.
At least a third of displaced people are children.
Most IDP families are moving to western (26%) and central Ukraine (45%). Some however, are located in the southern and eastern regions.
The number of Ukrainian asylum-seekers in other countries has remained low.
The displaced people “have left either because of direct threats or out of fear of insecurity or persecution,” Mr. Edwards said.
“People cite fear of persecution because of ethnicity or religious beliefs or, in the case of journalists, human rights activists and among intellectuals, due to their activities or professions/ Others say they could no longer keep their businesses open.”
Some even “received personal threats over the phone,” and “via social media” or found “threatening messages left on their property.”
The main challenges displaced people are facing are access to social services, long-term shelter, transferring residence registration so that they can access their economic and social rights access to documentation, and access to livelihoods.
Help for them is mostly being organized by regional governments, community-based organizations, and through voluntary contributions by citizens.
Some people are being accommodated in shelters provided by local authorities, and others are staying in privately owned spaces, such as hotels, sanatoriums, or houses.
Mr. Edwards said UNHCR welcomes a newly adopted by Ukraine that will allow free movement of its citizens between Crimea and the rest of the country. The law also allows identity cards to be restored, and covers voting rights.
As for the fate of the IDPs, the spokesman warned: “The capacity of host communities to support people is fast becoming exhausted.” He stressed the need for “more permanent shelter, more employment opportunities, and support for community-based and local organizations in developing long-term solutions for people have have become internally displaced.”