In April 2021, the Ukrainian Government adopted a by-law, which introduced the long-awaited regulations to implement the country’s new Statelessness Determination Procedure (SDP).
The by-law establishes how applications are to be submitted and reviewed under the new procedure, and the role of the State Migration Service of Ukraine (SMSU) local offices. As a result, applicants were finally able to start the process of confirming their statelessness status and regularising their stay in Ukraine.
During the application process, SDP applicants are provided with certificates confirming their legal right to temporarily stay in Ukraine. Although these give the right to reside in the country, they do not provide applicants with the right to work or access social security. So, whilst their residence status is now regulated, applicants under the SDP still lack access to fundamental human rights.
Since May 2021, SMSU local offices have registered more than 500 applications under the SDP. To date, none has received a final decision on statelessness status yet. The number of individuals who may need to access the SDP in Ukraine remains unknown as reliable data on the stateless population in the country is lacking.
In the first six months of the SDP being in place, several obstacles related to access to the procedure have come to light:
- All SDP applicants (including those in possession of photo ID) must confirm their identity, which means that everyone must provide three witnesses to confirm their identities.
- Certificates issued to SDP applicants are not provided on the same day as the application is registered, despite this being prescribed in law, which means that applicants need to return to the SMSU office to collect their certificate.
- The application submission process is time-consuming (taking an average of 3.5 hours) due to technical and administrative barriers such as problems with the software and a lack of staff.
- Despite the law providing for translation where required, SMSU offices do not provide applicants with translations and applicants must arrange for their own translations of documents into Ukrainian.
- Diplomatic representations of foreign countries refuse to provide information about the nationality of applicants upon the request of the SMSU, demanding instead that applicants apply themselves for this information and pay consular fees, which can be prohibitive.
Notwithstanding these issues, it is welcome that the SDP is now in place and operational enabling stateless people in Ukraine to resolve their status and access their rights under the 1954 Convention. It is hoped that we can work together with the SMSU and the Ukrainian Government to resolve accessibility issues and improve access to the procedure.