II National Forum on Migration Law. European Requirements and Ukrainian Implementation


KYIV - December 10, 2021. It is quite symbolic that the second National Forum on Migration Law took place on Human Rights Day. The event was organized by the Ukrainian Bar Association with the assistance and support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Ukraine, the International Organization for Migration, the Government Office for Coordination of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

Opening the Forum were national and foreign experts, including Anna Ogrenchuk, President of the Ukrainian Bar Association, Managing Partner of LCF Law Group, Serhiy Nizhynskyi, Chair of the UBA Committee on Migration Law, Nataliya Forsyuk, Director General of the Government Office for European and Euro-Atlantic Coordination, Mykhailo Nepran, Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Ukraine, Barbara Rotovnik, Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Ukraine, Eliza Galosh, Head of the Border and Migration Sector of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, and Christoph Beau, Senior UNHCR Protection Officer in Ukraine.

Anna Ogrenchuk stressed that there have been many important and controversial changes in the field of migration law recently. For example, the adaptation of migration legislation to the conditions related to the introduction of quarantine, and further digitalization of services, simplification of the procedure for issuing temporary residence permits in Ukraine for citizens of the Republic of Belarus due to the difficult political situation in the Republic. Currently, several provisions of the Law on Ensuring the Rights and Freedoms of Internally Displaced Persons are outdated and need to be improved to regulate the implementation of the rights and freedoms of migrants, namely, the right to social protection, housing, and education. On November 2, the draft Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Citizenship of Ukraine” on the Simplified Acquisition of Ukrainian Citizenship by Foreigners and Stateless Persons Who Participated in Protecting the Territorial Integrity and Inviolability of Ukraine” was adopted. And recently (December 2) draft law on multiple citizenships was registered, which will enable Ukrainians who for whatever reason found themselves abroad to become full citizens of Ukraine.

“I hope that today's event will contribute to the modernization of Ukrainian migration legislation. The Ukrainian Bar Association is ready to support the state authorities and the legal community in progressive changes,” Ms. Ogrenchuk quotes as saying.

Serhiy Nizhynsky emphasized the international status of the forum, which makes this event especially relevant, as it allows to implement the results of the discussion and European experience in national legislation.

Natalia Forsyuk outlined the problems in the migration sphere, but also touched on the positive achievements, noting that Ukraine's accession to the European migration network is being considered, which will provide an opportunity to discuss strategic cooperation in migration management, analyze current trends and prevent illegal migration.

Barbara Rotovnik continued her welcoming speech with a small report on the strategic plans of assistance to the Government of Ukraine on migration issues and spoke about the areas of support for the State Border Guard Service. “Migration is not only a threat and a crisis, but it is also an opportunity for economic growth and potential of people from other countries, but it is also only necessary to reduce uncontrolled illegal migration, prevent the outflow of talented people, labor exploitation, and to improve legislation. It is in these areas that Ukraine and the EU need to cooperate,” the speaker convinced.

Mykhailo Nepran supported the thesis of his colleague and presented migration processes in terms of imports of services. He said that Ukraine is not economically interesting for employment, but we have every chance to change this situation. Therefore, it is necessary to discuss and legally settle all issues to attract and employ people who can improve Ukraine's economic potential.

Christoph Bo spoke about UNHCR's activities in Ukraine, including legal aid, and stressed that Ukraine should engage in a constructive dialogue with the EU in resolving migration issues.

Eliza Galosh concluded the welcoming part of the event with a presentation on current issues of migrants that need to be considered when improving legislation.

During the first session, moderated by Serhiy Nizhynsky, participants talked about ensuring the rights and freedoms of internally displaced persons.

Participants in the discussion were Dmytro Lubinets, Chair of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Human Rights, Deocupitation and Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories in Donetsk, Luhansk Oblasts and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Sevastopol, National Minorities and International Relations, Carolina Lindholm Billing, UNHCR Representative in Ukraine, Oleksiy Smirnov, Acting Head of the Luhansk Regional State Administration - Head of the Military-Civil Administration, and Nariman Ustayev, Director Ismail Gasprinsky Institute of Geostrategy, Visiting Scholar at Stanford University, Adviser to the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Human Rights.

Dmytro Lubinets started discussing the state of legislation on ensuring the rights and freedoms of internally displaced persons (IDPs). According to him, there are currently about 1.5 million IDP citizens in Ukraine. According to this criterion, our country ranks first in Europe and ninth in the world, so it is obvious that Ukraine faces several challenges. The reason for internal migration is Russia's armed aggression and dissatisfaction with the economic situation in the occupied territories, so this trend will continue and requires legislative regulation. Thus, the speaker analyzed draft bills related to the rights of IDPs, in particular draft law No4487, which amends the Law on Ensuring the Rights and Freedoms of Internally Displaced Persons, and No4564 - on amendments to the laws on registration and processing of documents for IDPs, as well as drew attention to the positive and negative aspects of the Law on Multiple Citizenship. In addition, Dmytro Lubinets stressed for international partners that Russia's armed aggression continues to this day. And in general, according to the speaker, the migration crisis in Europe was caused by Russia's intervention, which can be stopped only by additional sanctions and political pressure.

Carolina Lindholm Billing spoke about the problems and challenges facing IDPs, including housing, social protection in the labor market, integration into local communities, etc. The expert praised the legislative work of the Government of Ukraine to improve the situation of internally displaced persons and assured that UNHCR is ready to discuss all issues with the authorities and share the experience of other countries.

Oleksiy Smirnov noted that the situation of IDPs has significantly improved compared to the year 2014, but there are still issues that need to be addressed urgently: proper organization of pension and social benefits, registration, and issuance of documents mentioned by previous speakers. In addition, the problem of exercising the title to real estate remaining in the occupied territories is quite serious.

At the end of the panel, Nariman Ustayev focused on the political aspects of IDP integration and their impact on the electoral process and democracy in Ukraine. According to his observations, there is a tendency to unite IDPs into communities, and consequently, the electorate is changing, affecting both political activity and voting results.

The second session, also moderated by Serhiy Nizhynsky, was devoted to labor migration and combating human trafficking. In the framework of this session Ivan Nagornyak, Adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Olga Makogon, Director of the State Employment Service (2019-2020), Editor-in-Chief of Human Resources Management magazine, and Yanina Sokolovskaya, Political Scientist, Editor-in-Chief of Izvestiya media portal in Ukraine, Canada, Israel, talked about the employment of Ukrainians abroad, licensing of mediation activities, implementation of the customary law of foreigners in Ukrainian legislation, social protection of foreign women in Ukraine, combating gender stereotypes and preventive policy on human trafficking.

Ivan Nagornyak said that since 2020 the EU is developing a new Migration and Asylum Pact, which is primarily aimed at solving the problem of illegal migration to the EU, but there are several issues of interest to Ukraine, including the policy of so-called legal cards to attract highly qualified workers from abroad. In this regard, the EU will work with the Ministry of Economy and Social Policy and the Ministry of Education and Science. Relevant strategies should also be developed to establish circular migration and enhance vocational education. Accordingly, it will have a positive impact on the socio-economic development of Ukraine.

Olga Makogon expressed her expert opinion on the state of labor migration regulation and analyzed the legal framework for the employment of migrant workers in the EU and Ukraine. Our legislative level stipulates that officially employed foreigners enjoy the same rights as Ukrainian citizens. According to the speaker, in the context of globalization, even Covid-19 has not changed the demand for labor, so labor migration will remain relevant.

Yanina Sokolovska cited statistical data of the National Bank on the inflow of funds to Ukraine from our workers. Thus, our labor migrants from Poland and Russia bring $ 6 every six months. Due to the difficult political relations with the latter, Ukrainian workers find themselves in an unstable situation, often work without registration, do not get paid, and quite often our citizens find themselves in labor slavery. That is, the political component is currently influencing labor migration.

During the third session, moderated by Serhiy Saenko, Deputy Director - Head of the Justice and Home Affairs Department of the European Union and NATO Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, lawyers dwelled upon improving legislation and creating conditions for utilizing the potential of foreigners in Ukraine.

Suzanne Mnatsakanyan, Project Manager of the European Social Charter Department of the Council of Europe, shared her recommendations on improving Ukraine's migration legislation. She called on Ukraine to join Article 19 of the European Social Charter, to bring our country closer to the European community in the protection of the rights of migrants and their families.

Christoph Beau described the problems of refugees and noted that the positive impact of European practices on the protection of this category of the population already exists, and the State Migration Service pays due attention to these issues. The speaker also analyzed the draft laws of Ukraine on solving the problems of refugees, taking into account the European experience. On the other hand, there are still issues that need to be addressed, such as asylum and detention for illegal entry. Mr. Beau also stressed that the Ukrainian government needs to increase its capacity for cooperation with the EU.

Concluding the event, Serhiy Nizhynskyi summed up all the issues raised by the speakers and stressed that now, in addition to labor, political and economic migration, environmental migration is gaining momentum. Therefore, the LCA strategy needs to be refined and environmental migration included.