Prohibition of crossing the checkpoints with occupied territories threatens the life and health of Ukrainians – human rights defenders

STATEMENT

We, the undersigned, are a coalition of civil society organizations, who are working on the protection of human rights for persons affected by conflict. On 14th of March the coalition presented a petition to the Ukrainian government requesting that there not be a complete travel ban for persons who do not have permanent residence registration in the Government Controlled Areas of Ukraine (GCA) through Entry-Exit-Checkpoints (EECP) between GCA and Temporarily Occupied Territories, during the coronavirus pandemic. The Coalition believed and still believes that the decision to close the EECP to those persons without permanent residence registration is dangerous as it creates a risk to the lives and the health for our citizens in occupation and is against the policy of reintegration. The petition was presented to and addressed to: the National Security and Defense Council Of Ukraine, and Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine and Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories Oleksii Reznikov.

Nevertheless, on the 16th of March, according to the order of the Commander of the Joint Forces, these restrictions were introduced on for the crossing of the contact line with Temporarily Occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The text of the Instruction of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine dated 14th of March 2020 #291-p was released today. This instruction introduces similar restrictions on the crossing of the administrative border with the Temporarily Occupied Territory of the Autonomous Republic Crimea and Sevastopil city. According to the decisions made, permission or prohibition to cross the contact line (administrative border) is granted according to the “propiska” (permanent registration). Only those who can confirm permanent residence registration on the GCA can return there. Correspondingly, only the citizens registered in the settlements on Non Government Controlled Areas (NGCA) according to the stamps in their passports can enter Temporarily Occupied Territories.

In general, we support the Government’s decision to take responsive and preventive measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in Ukraine, but we believe that the restrictions imposed on crossing the border of Temporarily Occupied Territories will have significant negative consequences for people living in occupation and who were not given adequate notice of the restrictions that will be introduced today and, therefore, did not have time to leave the occupied territories before restrictions were imposed.

On the first day of enforcement by the Joint Force Commander of the order passed on the 15th of March, persons who did not have a permanent residence in GCA, but had a GCA residence registered on their IDP certificate, were not allowed to cross the EECP.  This also applied to persons requiring prescription medications that are only available in the GCA.

There were difficulties with the passage through of the persons with surgeries booked in GCA. A woman with a grave medical condition who needed to be evacuated was held up due to her address being registered in TOT and her son that came to collect her is registered in GCA. Similarly, persons who do not have their place of registration at all (in particular, a large number of young people who received an ID card after the start of the conflict) are at risk. Besides, there were already serious problems today with the members of one family (married couple, for instance), who were registered in GCA and in NGCA at the same time. In general, we provided 432 telephone consultations yesterday on the issues connected to new restrictions of EECP crossing.

All these issues need to be addressed as soon as possible. As well as the situation with the need for periodic identification verification of recipients of social aid and pensions of the persons residing in the Occupied Territories.

We welcome the statements of Vice Prime Minister Oleksii Reznikov that this situation will be resolved in the near future. However, we note that, once the changes have been adopted, the information must be brought to the attention of citizens, social protection bodies and the pension fund as soon as possible.

Recognizing the importance of measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe that the following should be done in order to humanely implement the restrictions of crossing the contact line:

  • to provide additional clarification to the persons responsible for securing the pass through the EECP regarding the use of IDP certificate as a document confirming the place of residence of the person in the GCA of Ukraine and the basis for crossing the contact line during the period of restrictions;
  • to explain the procedure of crossing the contact line (administrative border) by persons who do not have any stamps of residence registration in their passports of the citizen of Ukraine or who do not have on them a residence registration certificate (form 13 to the passport of the citizen of Ukraine in the form of a card);
  • to clarify in which exceptional cases the person, regardless of the place of their registration or in the absence of any registration, will be able to cross the contact line or the administrative border, in both directions (in such cases as funerals, the serious illness of close relatives, the need for medical aid, surgery etc.) and to provide the response protocol in such cases;
  • to provide access to GCA for the persons in need for medical care regardless of the registration of the place of residence and to create the necessary conditions for medical assistance; to provide isolation of persons with symptoms of coronavirus disease in GCA if needed;
  • to strengthen the capacity of health care facilities on the border of Temporarily Occupied Territories to fulfil their duties to keep down the spread of virus infection and to provide the necessary assistance to the population;
  • to strengthen the preventive and security measures for servicemen, officers of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, the State Migration Service, the State Fiscal Service, the National Police of Ukraine, the Security Service of Ukraine, and those who are serving on the EECP;
  • to strengthen disinfection measures at the EECP on the border of temporarily occupied territories;
  • to address international organizations for medical assistance and additional disinfection means.
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