Minorities’ Situation in Ukraine in Focus of the Government, Civil Society and International Organizations

4 November 2016

The Office of Ukraine’s Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) gathered more than one hundred representatives of the Ukrainian Government, international organizations and civil society at a conference organized in Kyiv on 3 November 2016. The aim of the conference was to discuss and analyze how two-and-a-half years of conflict influenced tolerance and perception of minorities in Ukraine.

“The conflict posed many challenges to Ukraine, we were not ready for,” said Valeriia Lutkovska, Ukraine’s Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, opening the conference. “In regards to the rights of minorities, there is a need to assess where state authorities should do more, and where Ukraine needs help and expertize of international organizations.”

Pablo Mateu, UNHCR Representative in Ukraine, stated that many individuals, who have left their countries of origin mostly due to conflict or lack of respect for diversity and human rights, continue to face discrimination and xenophobia even in the country of destination. “This is unfortunately still the case in Ukraine, where the majority of asylum seekers and recognized refugees continue to report cases of discrimination, bullying in schools and even hate crimes,” he added.

“It is quite difficult to comprehend how the conflict and its social-economic consequences have affected the social fabric in Ukraine and everyone’s readiness to show solidarity with others, to accept and tolerate. Ultimately, the way a society treats its minorities demonstrates how democratic and open it is,” added Manfred Profazi, IOM Ukraine Chief of Mission.

Conference participants discussed the situation of ethnic, religious, sexual minorities in Ukraine, as well as of international students, internally displaced persons, and demobilized soldiers. As part of the round table discussions, recommendations for better advocacy with the government, minorities’ interaction with the wider public and countering hate speech in media were developed.

According to the Diversity Initiative* data, in ten months of 2016, eight hate-motivated attacks were documented in Ukraine, with 13 victims, two of whom perished. Victims of the attacks were foreigners from Guinea, Nigeria, Somalia and Israel, as well as Ukrainian citizens with Roma and LGBT background.

* Responding to an increase in the number of suspected racially motivated attacks in Ukraine beginning in 2006, the IOM, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Amnesty International and other concerned civil society organizations formed the Diversity Initiative (DI) in 2007, to address the issue in a coordinated way. DI is a voluntary cooperation platform, which strives to uphold the human dignity and well-being of migrants, refugees and visible minorities in Ukraine. It currently includes over 65 organizations from the international, civil, corporate, and Government sectors as well as diplomatic missions and interested individuals (see http://diversipedia.org.ua).

(С) Photo: Ombudsman's Office/Tetiana Bondarenko