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PACE rapporteur: ‘The gravity of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is not fully appreciated in Europe’

“Ukraine is experiencing a serious humanitarian crisis on account of the conflict in its eastern regions. I am convinced that the extent and gravity of this crisis is not fully appreciated elsewhere in Europe, and not at all in many western European countries,” said Jim Sheridan (United Kingdom, SOC), rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, speaking at the end of a three-day fact-finding visit to Kyiv and Kharkiv.

“Indeed, the Ukrainian government itself is only now beginning to recognise its scope and consequences. I nevertheless salute the efforts made so far by the Ukrainian authorities, and the remarkable generosity and solidarity shown by the country’s people and civil society in responding to this emergency, one that is not of their own making and which came completely without warning,” Mr Sheridan added.

“The first step towards resolving this crisis is obvious: a genuine cease-fire that will allow those IDPs whose homes have not been destroyed to return without fear for their safety. There must also be an end to the widely-reported human rights violations committed by both irregular and regular armed forces in and around the rebel-held territories. The government should continue to fulfil its essential responsibilities towards those still living in the rebel-held territories, who remain Ukrainian citizens entitled to full enjoyment of their rights. This will require increased assistance from the international community, all the more important as the first snows of winter began to fall during my visit,” the rapporteur added.

“Even before the current crisis, Ukraine needed far-reaching reforms in areas such as good governance, anti-corruption, the judiciary and the economy. The humanitarian crisis has made these reforms even more urgent; at the same time, these reforms are essential if the national and international responses to the humanitarian crisis are to achieve their full effects. The Ukrainian government is now duty-bound to address both aspects with equal urgency and determination. An absolutely essential first step in dealing with the humanitarian crisis is for President Poroshenko to sign and bring into force the October law on IDPs without further delay; on this, the representatives of international organisations and Ukrainian civil society that I met were unanimous.

We must also not forget the situation in Crimea, which remains legally part of Ukrainian national territory even if Kyiv is unable to exercise its authority there. At least 20 000 people, and probably many more, have fled the peninsula in fear for their safety, following human rights violations notably against the Crimean Tatar community, as well as against human rights defenders and other critics of the de facto authorities, who bear responsibility under international law for the protection of all those living on the peninsula,” the rapporteur concluded.

In Kyiv, the rapporteur held a series of meetings with representatives of the national authorities, including Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development, Construction and Housing and Communal Services Volodymyr Hroisman and the heads of the State Migration Service, State Border Service and office of the Parliamentary Ombudsperson, as well as representatives of international organisations and local NGOs.

In Kharkiv, Mr Sheridan met representatives of the state, regional and city authorities, as well as local representatives of international organisations and NGOs. He also visited several accommodation facilities for IDPs, both state- and privately administered, as well as meeting volunteers working at the train station to receive, advise and assist newly-arriving IDPs. He thanked the Ukrainian authorities involved in assisting with the organisation of his visit, as well as those he met during it.

Mr Sheridan will present his draft report to the meeting of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons in Bucharest on 27-28 November, following which he will also visit Moscow and the Rostov region in Russia before the report is debated by the Parliamentary Assembly during its first part-session in 2015 (26-30 January).