IDP is an abbreviation, which in the fifth year of the war no longer requires decoding. But when suddenly the full name is still needed, the subconscious throws out an interesting fortress, giving out several variants at once for the first letter, in Russian – three (“forcedly”, “temporarily” and “internally”), in Ukrainian – two (“forcedly” and “internally”). 

The official name of IDP is “internally displaced persons”. But in fact — all of the listed options. Therefore, by default – people moved “forcedly”. In fact, it depends on the strategy, the state chooses, instead, it influences the perception of displaced persons in the new place by the local community and, as a consequence, their self-awareness, integration and electoral ability.

“One journalist, a native of Donbas, has such a view that there is some specific state policy aimed at making the IDP return to the places of the previous residence, – the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Georgii Tuka said at the beginning of the presentation of the “Report of the National Monitoring System situation with IDP” – a joint study of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Ministry of Transport and Communications, and the Ministry of Social Policy, covering the second quarter of 2018. –  A young, well-educated girl. I had to convince her that this was completely untrue about half an hour.

I believe that the most vulnerable segments of our population, to whom, without any doubt, the IDP belong, are victims of certain manipulations. Especially it will be felt on the eve of the elections”.

Georgii Tuka is right. There is no clearly defined and adequate policy of the state in relation to the IDP, because of what many of them returned back. The research on the situation with the IDP in Ukraine, which the IOM office in Ukraine regularly holds since March 2016, once again determines painful points.

The study presents aggregated sample survey data through personal and telephone interviews with the IDP, key informants, persons crossing the line of demarcation, as well as focus group discussions and other official data. In the last, 10th round, held in June 2018, 2,406 respondents were interviewed through personal interviews and 4,006 by telephone (760 of them with migrants, who returned to uncontrolled territory).

“Ukraine is experiencing the biggest crisis, associated with the displacement of persons in Europe, since the events in the Balkans in the 1990s. The data presented in the report helps us to assess the needs of vulnerable people and respond to them promptly,” Dr Thomas Lothar Weiss, the Head of the IOM Mission in Ukraine, said.

Employment and well-being

The most problematic issues for the IDP are the lack of own housing (28%) and lack of money (18%). 78% of respondents in the uncontrolled territory called the fact that they have private housing there as a reason for return, and therefore they should not pay rent.

The welfare of the IDP somewhat worsened, as evidenced by the decrease in the average monthly income per household member, which is noticeably lower than this figure in Ukraine as a whole —2,090 UAH and 3,640 UAH, respectively. In addition, the level of the average monthly income of the IDP remains low and in comparison to the actual subsistence minimum calculated by the Ministry of Social Policy (3,327 UAH).

The situation with the employment of the IDP also worsened: in June the share of the employed was 42% (6% less than in March of this year). In general, the employment level in Ukraine remained stable and amounted to 56% of the population aged from 15 to 70 in the first quarter of 2018. Kyiv remains the city with the highest proportion of employed among the IDP (79%).

11% per cent of the IDP reported that they are actively looking for work and are ready to start working in two weeks. The overwhelming majority of them (89%) noted that they faced difficulties when they were looking for a job, among which they called low wages on the proposed vacancies (54%), as well as a lack of vacancies in general (51%).

“The majority of the IDP are elderly people,” Georgii Tuka said. “There is a problem. But, frankly speaking, the employment of pension age people from Kyiv is also not easy to solve. Just the concentration of the disadvantaged people among the IDP is much higher than in general in society. Therefore, there are such figures”.

However, the characteristics of the IDP and their households presented in the study indicate another. The share of the IDP of 60 years and more is 18%, and is 1.3 times lower than the total population, while the percentage of the IDP under the age of 18 is 1.6 times higher (28%). Households, consisting only of persons over 60 years accounted for 16% of all households among the surveyed IDP. Households with children – 46%, with persons with disabilities – 15%.

“The decline in income that may be associated with the deterioration of the employment situation deepens the social vulnerability of the IDP in the long term,” Dr Thomas Lothar Weiss notes. “The results of the research show that for high prices of medicines and services, medicine ceases to be available for an increasing number of the IDP. About a third of the IDP was last seen with a doctor more than a year ago, among the other reasons for this pause, is the shortage of funds. The data reflects that the reduction in health care costs for migrants often becomes a survival strategy in conditions when they cannot feed themselves and their families”.

Means of subsistence

The self-assessment of the IDP of their financial situation remained unchanged compared to the previous round. More than half (55%) assessed their financial situation as “money is only enough for food” or “forced to save even on food”. 51% reported using at least one of the survival strategies: “spending of saved money” (36%), “money loan” (24%) and “reduction of necessary medical expenses” (25%). Most often, large families and families with persons with disabilities report about the use of survival strategies.

State aid to the IDP is most often mentioned as the source of income (56%). 54% of the IDP named wages as the main source of income.

The vision of key informants in the problems of the IDP is somewhat different. The biggest problem is the living conditions (31%), which is followed by unemployment (22%), the lack of an opportunity to return to their place of permanent residence (15%), rent of housing (7%) and the cessation of social payments/pensions (6%).

18% of households of the IDP reported that they had been suspended social benefits since the beginning of the conflict. 15% of them are between July and December 2017, and 25% are from January to June 2018 (due to changes in the mechanism of the inspections of the pension entitlement rights of the Pension Fund).

The largest number of cases of cessation of social assistance related to monthly targeted assistance to the applicant for residence (75%). Another type of social benefits, the cessation of which was often mentioned, is a pension for age or length of service, as was reported by 19%.

“Of course, there are technical issues,” the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Social Policy Mykola Shambir said. “Probably, it is connected with a discrepancy of bases of various bodies. There is information that a person moved to uncontrolled territory and did not return back. The payments are suspended, we check – a person is here. There are technical questions. We do not hide this, we talk about this. There were also some political issues. Now we are dealing with their settlement.

The decree on the payment of pensions is valid. The issue of abolishing the order of control is being worked out. We will make changes in such a way as to ensure normal control at the same time.

Compared to the last year, we see a steady trend of increasing social benefits for the IDP. Although compared to the first quarter of 2018, the study recorded a slight decline in some indicators, such as employment and income, it is still necessary to analyze what influenced them”.

“It reminds me of a joke about how a student was examining zoology: if the fish had wool, then it would have fleas, and then about fleas,” Olha Prykhodko says, the expert on advocacy of “Donbas SOS”, the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Social Policy. “There are a number of unsolved social problems, for example, the pension of the IDP. People are suspended from paying pensions, then, after checking, they are renewed. But the difference for the time that they did not pay, as prescribed in the legislation, should be paid on the basis of a special order, which does not exist yet. That is, people do not receive their payments, respectively, cannot pay their debts, which accumulated during the suspension of payments. In this way, people either have to go to the street, because they do not have the means to rent housing or to return to the temporarily occupied territories. We hope that in the resolution, which is being developed by the Cabinet, as it was said, there will be a special order, and they will finally normalize the whole process of such payments. I would also like to see a coalition of public organizations involved in the process, who have been engaged in this issue for the past five years, have extensive experience and can help develop a mechanism that is convenient for all parties, both for the state and for the IDP”.

To stay or to go

Despite the listed problems, the results of the study show that, in general, the IDP continue to stay at the place of residence and do not go further. 62% of the respondents reported that they remain in their current place of residence for more than three years. The part of respondents, intending to return after the end of the conflict to their place of residence before displacement was 28%. 38% expressed their intention not to return even after the end of the conflict. At the same time, the part of those, who chose the answer “I find it difficult to answer” was 18%. These results may indicate a lack of confidence of the IDP in the future.

The intentions to seek work abroad remain low: only 1% of the IDP reported that they already found work abroad and are going there, while 4% said they intend to find work abroad soon.

57% of the population reported that after the move they visited their place of residence in the conflict zone. “Housing maintenance” and “visiting friends/family” remain the main reasons for travel to the uncontrolled territories.

Integration into local communities

The part of the IDP that reported that they have integrated into the local community was 45%, while 35% stated their partial integration. The main conditions for successful integration that were pointed out by the IDP, were housing (86%), permanent income (66%) and employment (48%).

In comparison to December 2017, there is a significant increase in the part of the IDP, who indicated “family and friends in the same place” as a necessary condition for integration. This was reported by 44%.

12% of the IDP felt discrimination in connection with their status. The feeling of discrimination or unfair treatment concerns mainly housing (34%), employment (32%), health (29%) and interaction with the local population (24%).

Elective franchise

Participation in the political life is a prerequisite for integrating of the IDP into local communities. The IDP exercise their right to vote in accordance with the procedure for temporarily changing the place of voting without changing the electoral address, in accordance with the Law on Ensuring the Rights and Freedoms of the IDP. In practice, they face several obstacles that prevent them from exercising their right to vote.

According to the CEC, the IDP do not have the right to vote in elections, held at the place of their actual residence, since they do not belong to the territorial community to which they were displaced. On local elections, the electoral address of the voter is determined by the registered place of residence. So, the IDP can vote in local elections if they become members of a territorial community, that is, they are registered in a new place of residence in accordance with the Law on Freedom of Movement and Free Choice of Place of Residence in Ukraine. However, the majority of the IDP do not have their own housing to register, or cannot register in a rented accommodation.

41% of respondents expressed their intention to vote at the next presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine, while 33% do not intend to vote, and 24% haven’t decided yet.

The most common reason why the IDP do not intend to vote in the next presidential and parliamentary elections is the conviction that they, as the IDP, do not have the right to vote in elections (31%). In addition, 24% reported that they do not believe in elections or do not trust the authorities, and 16% said they do not know how to vote in the place of displacement. Other reasons cited were the lack of interest in participating in elections (11%), the absence of candidates for whom they could vote (9%), religious considerations (2%), lack of time (1%) and “other” reasons (1%), another 5% did not answer the question. 82% of the IDP, who confirmed their awareness of the voting procedure, reported intention to vote, compared to 40% of the IDP, who reported the absence of awareness of the voting procedure.

“Most of all, I was struck by the problems of the electoral rights of the settlers,” Georgii Tuka notes. “The attitude of the people themselves to their own rights, the lack of faith in the possibility of changes in the country through the elections testifies some kind of social crisis. It really upsets me. I myself have devoted two years to return the voting rights to these people, and now I have a feeling that I was flogged with shame”.

“These are people, who survived the traumatization,” the psychologist Svitlana Roiz explains. “Before they can defend themselves, they step-by-step should build up several safety circuits, including physical ones. Only after that, they will be ready for some kind of confrontation. So far, many of them are still in a dependent state”.

Text by Hanna Drozd

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