10 March 2021

About 100 representatives of the government, civil society, migrant and Diaspora associations, international organizations, academia and private sector gathered online on 25 February 2021 to discuss the UN Policy Paper on Migration. The analytical document was created jointly by all the UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes in Ukraine with the aim to capture a common UN position on both in- and out-migration in Ukrainian context to present specific recommendations on how to enhance migration governance.

“Migration is crucial for the socioeconomic development of Ukraine; it also represents a key area of the country cooperation framework with the European Union as well as countries in the region and beyond,” said Osnat Lubrani, UN Resident Coordinator in Ukraine.

COVID-19 has accelerated the need for a comprehensive migration governance framework as envisaged by the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, but also the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement. The pandemic may force up to a quarter of Ukrainian migrants to return, remittances may drop by 20%, and returning migrants are in danger of stigmatisation.

“Ukraine has been a country of origin of labour migration for a long time. According to different estimates, there are currently between 3-5 million Ukrainian migrant workers,” said Anh Nguyen, Chief of Mission at IOM Ukraine. “However, as the economy grows and the demand for labour cannot be matched internally, we will see negative economic, social and security impacts as the flow of labour into Ukraine would be drawn even more from the grey sector if not properly managed or regulated,” he added.

Safe, orderly and regular migration with full respect for human rights is crucial to achieving a wide range of Sustainable Development Goals. The 2030 Agenda recognizes the positive contribution of migrants for inclusive growth and the multidimensional reality of migration. The SDGs consider migrant women, men and children as a vulnerable group to be protected. And Ukrainian migrant workers continue to be at risk to fraudulent recruitment, exploitation and abuse. An estimated 260,000 Ukrainians have fallen victim to human trafficking since 1991, and last year IOM, the UN Migration Agency, assisted a record number of 1,680 Ukrainians who had fallen prey to traffickers in 25 different countries as well as in Ukraine. Yet, the 2030 Agenda also recognises migrants as agents of development. They are integral to the economies of their host countries. They enrich their home countries with knowledge and new skill sets when they return, and they are senders of vital remittances. In Ukraine, this amount reached almost USD 16 billion in 2019, or 10 per cent of GDP.

The UN Country Team in Ukraine is convinced that an effective response requires a coordinated whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach that benefits migrants and society and involves full respect for human rights. To this end, Ukraine’s Strategy of State Migration Policy must be accelerated, stakeholder capacity enhanced, and mechanisms for coordination institutionalised and made inclusive.

  • Dialogue and cooperation with host countries must be strengthened to protect human rights and to establish well-governed and managed mobility corridors, without leaving the most vulnerable behind.
  • Remittance channels must be formalised and simplified, positive domestic conditions and incentives must be created to entice people to stay, to stimulate permanent and temporary Ukrainian migrant and diaspora return and to secure their investment in a productive economy.
  • COVID-19 returnees to Ukraine, workers unable to leave and their families must be supported to generate income and aid their integration into the domestic labour market. Their communities and SMEs need support to adapt to changing needs.
  • Pathways for safe and regular migration into Ukraine should be opened, by regularising irregular migration, and by granting access to the labour market and official employment where the economy demands.

The dialogue initiated through the launch of the UN Policy Paper, will help validate these recommendations and aims to translate those into concrete actions for reaping the benefits of migration while minimizing the costs. Based on the outcomes of this broad-based dialogue with migration stakeholders in Ukraine, the UN Country Team in Ukraine aims to formulate the new migration-related commitments under the new partnership framework with the Government of Ukraine.