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Volunteers call upon government for cooperation
Natalia Bimbiraite during press conference in UNIAN Photo by Olena Orlova, IRC “Legal Space”
Natalia Bimbiraite during press conference in UNIAN

In our situation, it is important to coordinate our efforts. For example, the creation of a mobile structure composed of State officials, law-enforcement representatives and volunteering groups, could enhance support to IDPs and ATO participants. Such structures are required in all border regions.

This and other practical recommendations were discussed during a press conference of volunteers’ movements from Southern Ukraine. The press conference took place in Kyiv, in “UNIAN” press-agency premises on 28 November 2014. Participants talked about difficult situation in border regions of Ukraine and general issues due to armed conflict with Russian Federation. The main problems are now ATO participants and their legal status as well as IDPs.

Among participants: Natalia Bimbiraite, representative of Kherson regional charity and health fund, Natalia Kozarenko, lawyer of Kherson Community Law Center, Natalia Piddubna, lawyer of Chernihiv Community Law Center, Igor Brynosh, head of Odessa Community Law Center. Journalists from ten different All-Ukrainian mass-media agencies were present.

Legal aid needs coordination

Participants discussed main issues of legal aid to ATO participants and IDPs. Natalia Kozarenko, representative of Kherson regional charity and health fund, explained that in her region five volunteers’ centers provide aid to IDPs. However, there is no coordination between them. Public activists are working on creating links between centers and coordinate their work. Kherson counts 7176 IDPs from Crimea and ATO zone (official data), but their number is constantly changing. We have now entered the third wave of forced displacement. Ukraine was not prepared for such event and we do not have a relevant legislative base to deal with it. Kherson Community Law Center was one of the first organizations to provide free legal aid to IDPs. We now have a functional hot line and a schedule of consultations.

Kherson Community Law Center provides legal aid on different issues: social benefits, IDP registration, health care, etc. The Center’s lawyers help soldiers from ATO zone to receive status of combatants. They also provide basic legal information and support. The Center also tries to coordinate different State institutions responsible for helping IDPs. Igor Brynosh, head of Odessa Community Law Center, explained the types of legal aid requested by IDPs in Odessa region. He also stressed that the government should provide systematic and efficient mechanisms to help people in difficult situation. Today in Ukraine many governmental functions are carried out by volunteers. They collect money for social benefits and health care, they redistribute it to IDPs, they provide humanitarian aid (clothes, food, housing). But the number of IDPs will grow: officially there are 20 000 of IDPs in Odessa region; the reality is closed to 25 000 people. Volunteers cannot deal with such numbers of people. The government should work together with volunteers to provide efficient solutions.

Psychological rehabilitation: the beginning

Natalia Piddubna, lawyer of Chernihiv Community Law Center, noticed that it is important to talk about psychological rehabilitation. Indeed, a lot of organizations are focused on legal aid for ATO participants but let’s not forget about psychological support to soldiers and IDPs. During the first three waves of mobilization, more than 7 000 persons from Chernihiv region were involved in armed conflict. As they return home, they need rehabilitation.  The government is not prepared to face psychological problems of thousands of veterans. Their families also need support and special care. NGOs cannot resolve this issue, our government should interfere and provide help to its citizens.

Natalia Bimbiraite recalled that all soldiers and their families can access free legal aid on-line, on “Legal Space” Internet platform. This platform is accessible everywhere and provides chat consultations with qualified lawyers.

Speakers formulated several recommendations:
• adopt legislation that will guarantee equal rights to all participants of ATO regardless of their status (mobilized/volunteer);
• adopt changes to State budget to ensure access to free quality medical aid to all soldiers from ATO;
• adopt and implement all relevant legislation to ensure realization of Law of Ukraine “On freedoms and rights of IDPs”.

During press conference participants got the chance to watch documentary short movie “Southern border” about volunteers’ work in Kherson region in May 2014.

Data:
- 1 500 000 UAH – funds collected by Kherson volunteers.
- 35 000 registered IDPs from Crimea in Odessa, Kherson and Chernihiv regions; unofficial data is close to 50 000 IDPs.
- More than 7 000 persons mobilized in Chernihiv region, 4 500 of them are now in ATO zone.

Additional information: Community Law Centers are established with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation within the framework of “Human rights and justice” programme initiative. You can learn more on the Centers network activities, basics and principles of work here: www.legalspace.org

*Copies of documents are attached to this article

More media materials on UNIAN press conference:

http://interfax.com.ua/news/general/236906.html

http://press.unian.net/pressnews/1015387-volonteryi-podcherkivayut-neobhodimost-nalajivaniya-tesnogo-sotrudnichestva-s-gosudarstvennyimi-organami.html

TVi channel, “Segodnya”, 29.11.2014, on IDPs (11:03)
Copyright: TVi channel

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