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Toretsk: individual legal aid is a step to "reset"
Round table in Toretsk Photo by NGO "Ecology and Social Protection".
Round table in Toretsk

To create efficient models of cooperation in the field of legal aid to Roma, to make it as accessible as possible for Roma families was the key issue to discuss at a round table "Free legal aid on the protection of individual rights of the Roma families" held on April 6, 2016 in Toretsk, Donetsk region.

The event was organized by NGO "Ecology and Social Protection" in the framework of the project "Center of Legal Aid to Roma Families."

The round table was attended by the expert, the Director of Roma Program Initiative of International Renaissance Foundation Olga Zhmurko; project manager Olga Rudenko and associate of the Center for legal aid to Roma families Serhiy Khrapach, Roma activists; representatives of Kramatorsk local Center for FSLA, state migration service, the police, the city Council and civil activists.

At the beginning of the event Olga Zhmurko noted that the International Renaissance Foundation promotes civil and ethnic development of the Roma in Ukraine for over 18 years. During this period the Roma community of Ukraine managed to create a structured movement of national self-identification, participation in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the country. The expert also spoke about the priorities of the Roma strategy, which provide the focus of the authorities and the public on the implementation of the Action Plan of the Strategy at the local level. The Strategy and Plan, though adopted at the national level, but funding from the state budget is not provided. At the same time the provision of free legal assistance to Roma population is one of the priority objectives of the Strategy.

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"According to the Law of Ukraine "On free legal aid in Ukraine" in matters of free legal aid the basic responsibilities for establishing a system for providing FLA in the community rests with the local authorities. Therefore, this round table is very timely”, Olga Zhmurko noted. “Only by pooling the efforts of government, non-governmental organizations and overcoming all obstacles with the financial support of international organizations it is possible to provide really quality primary and secondary legal aid”.

"Individual legal assistance is an important component in the context of the fight against poverty, it is a step to reset: from the problem to its solution. No social policy will be effective if there are no legal opportunities to human rights protection", the project director Olga Rudenko said.

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The lawyer Serhiy Khrapach cited the following statistics of the work of the Centre within 4 months of its activities:

- 48 Roma addressed the Centre

- 215 legal consultations provided

- 84 clarification on the issues of social protection received

- 9 queries to institutions filed,

- 57 Roma received assistance in drafting pleadings.

“During the project implementation the organization faced the typical problems of the Roma: lack of money, time, personal motivation”, Serhiy Khrapach said. “But there are more serious problems for the Roma, who appeared in Toretsk without any documents after the stay on the territory of the DPR, or those who in 40 years have no Ukrainian citizenship".

The Roma activist Khrystyna Gordienko told the story of her relative who are illegal in the city, living without work, money, home. Khrystyna is a mother of three children, supports her husband "because I do care." He has no right to health care and other resources – as he has no passport. None of the legislative procedures provide actions in favor of such people. How to collect the documents on the occupied territory? When and who will decide these questions? Unfortunately, all of these issues remain open in frontline Toretsk.

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During the discussion the head of the Department of the SMS of Ukraine in Donetsk region Volodymyr Fedorov told about changes in the legislation concerning registration of place of stay of persons and highlighted the main problem of Roma in communication with the migration service – low level of education, including legal awareness. Another problem is the absence of social mediators to solve complex issues.

Director of Kramatorsk local Center for FSLA Yaroslav Pisarev offered the services of partner legal advice and the integrator Sheilat Afolabi to attract Roma to lectures, trainings, consultations held by the Centre.

Managing Director of Toretsk Executive Committee Oleksandr Andrusenko acknowledged the Roma problem. He stressed that members of authorities should treat Roma people carefully, without stereotypes, help solve their life problems.

According to Olga Zhmurko the meeting marked the beginning of cooperation of entities of providing FLA for protection of the rights of members of the Roma families on the level of the local community.

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Adult and young guests of the event. Photo by NGO "Ecology and Social Protection".

Center of legal assistance to Roma families is created with the support of Roma Program Initiative of the International Renaissance Foundation.

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