In 2015, when the European Union was facing a rapid inflow of migrants from the Middle East and Africa, which culminated in what is often referred to as “the migration crisis”, its Eastern neighbor was undergoing its own mass reshuffling of the population. With the fifth largest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world, reaching nearly 1.8 million, Ukraine has found it arduous to deal with the immense and long-term consequences of the war in its eastern region of Donbas. The rapid inflow of people from the east and south of Ukraine to other regions has not only seen an ad-hoc and poorly elaborated governmental response, but also led to a number of problems related to the integration of newcomers, unemployment, as well as prejudice, xenophobia and distrust towards the “others”. However, it has also seen an unprecedented mobilisation of civil society in support of the displaced, reflected in a variety of selfless acts of human kindness[1].

The issue of internal migration in Ukraine during the hybrid war in the East is currently in the public spotlight for several reasons. First, it is important to respect the rights of internally displaced persons under the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Second, this issue is significant and important for the country’s economy. Third, proper protection of the rights and interests of internally displaced persons will facilitate the end of the war in the East as soon as possible[2].

In 2021 the conflict between Ukraine and Russia entered its ninth year, continuing to significantly impact the lives of more than five million people who live in the region more than 3.4 million require humanitarian assistance and protection services. As of July 6, 2021, according to the Unified Information Database on Internally Displaced Persons, 1,473,650 migrants from the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea have been registered[3].

Officially, since 2014, more than 3,350 civilian men, women and children have been killed another 9,000 have been injured. These protracted hostilities have placed a financial strain on social services, communities and the population in general. Besides the loss of life and livelihoods, as a result of hostilities appears some kind of vulnerabilities that are associated with the displacement of nearly 1.4 million persons from the conflict-affected areas.

On 20 November 2014, the government of Ukraine adopted a new Law to protect the rights of Internally Displaced People (IDPs), and to establish a simple procedure for registering them and for providing them with temporary accommodation. In 2019, a new Election Code was adopted. It entitles IDPs to register an electoral address and to vote where they live. Before the introduction of this code IDPs were not eligible to vote in local elections because they did not belong to the territorial community to which they had been displaced.

Ukraine is one of the most migration-affected countries in Europe, with a diaspora of up to 20 million people, and 2.5 million labour migrants who contribute remittances of more than US$11 billion, which represents 10% of the country’s GDP. These remittances may have contributed to the economy of Ukraine and economic growth (solid at 3.2% in 2019), and may have been led by successful agricultural harvests and sectors that are dependent on domestic consumption, but the crisis resulting from COVID-19 is expected to impact negatively on the country’s economic activity in 2021-2022. Additionally, Ukraine has one of the most rapidly ageing populations in Europe.

This trend exacerbates employment challenges by reducing the number of people in the labour force. With the recent increasing trend of external labour migration, a third of which consists of young Ukrainians under the age of 35, these factors could affect national security and growth in the medium term. Ukraine’s unemployment rate decreased to 8.6% in the first three quarters of 2019 from 9.1% in 2018, but in 2021 it is expected to increase to 10%[4].

As of 2020, the employment rate among IDPs was at 46%, as opposed to 58% on average by country. To access payments and compensations, displaced persons are forced to overcome physical and administrative obstacles. Profiling by the Norwegian Council in the case of refugees in Ukraine, demonstrates that one of the main differences between displaced and non-displaced populations associated with access to adequate housing and facilities existence, while the cost of housing (rent and cost utilities) often accounts for the largest share budget of IDPs households. Lack of access to housing and projected income are the main reasons why many of them, especially the elderly, return to territory not under the control of the Government of Ukraine, maintaining, however, IDPs registration. Access to housing and livelihoods, in particular projected income, are the main factors influencing IDPs decisions to stay, return or continue to move, in particular abroad[5].

As was already mentioned, Ukraine, which has one of the largest internally displaced person (IDP) populations in the world, is experiencing the biggest displacement crisis in Europe since the Balkan Wars. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 after a period of civil unrest and the subsequent onset of armed conflict in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatist forces and the Ukrainian military, civilians fled en masse to unoccupied territories in eastern Ukraine as well as central and western parts of the country. At the peak of military operations in 2015, the Ukrainian government reported some 1.5 million IDPs, with the vast majority from eastern Ukraine and around 50,000 from Crimea.

Additionally, the unregistered IDPs (for whom estimates are difficult to come by) factor into this displacement crisis and are estimated between 100,000 and 200,000, including some vulnerable categories of children, retired persons, and members of the Roma community. Due to the Ukrainian government’s security concerns and its desire to have better control over money funneled to the uncontrolled territories, IDPs must register in order to access social benefits, including pensions. Many people living in the conflict area therefore decided to move in order to receive social benefits, which, in practice, means that Ukrainian authorities have unintentionally increased the number of IDPs. On the other hand, those who do not require social benefits often do not register, as the process is arduous and time consuming.

Despite Ukraine’s significantly changing political landscape—including the landslide victory of Volodymyr Zelensky in the presidential elections and accelerated reforms in key sectors—Ukrainian authorities are not prioritizing IDP protection. Apart from the economic and humanitarian burden for Ukrainian society (including financial strain from the integration of IDPs in their new communities at a time when Ukraine has lost one-third of its industrial potential and bears the high cost of ongoing military conflict), internal displacement poses challenges related to national identity, social cohesion, and political participation. Despite an initial commitment to grant IDPs full civil and political rights, Ukrainian authorities under former President Petro Poroshenko were quite reluctant to allow IDPs to vote in local elections and limited their access to the pension system.

Moreover, many scholars suggest that the Ukrainian government has failed to adhere to international standards, including the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and Council of Europe recommendations on IDPs enfranchisement, such as easy access to registration and other documentation, unrestricted freedom of movement, access to social and integration services, and access to full political rights. As a result, Ukrainian IDPs before 2019 were not entitled to vote in local elections and only partially in parliamentary and presidential ones as this right is made conditional upon possessing the permanent residence registration in the new place of residence[6].

Over the past five years, the world has seen a consistently high level of forced displacement with an increasing share of forced displacement due to conflict. In the report of the UN Refugee Agency “Global trends.  Forced displacement in 2017” states that at the end of 2017, the number of people displaced within their own country (internally displaced persons, IDPs) as a result of armed conflict, violence or human rights violations was estimated at 40 million. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, the number of new displacements in the geopolitical space in 2017 was 30.6 million, of which 11.8 million displacements were caused by conflict and violence, and 18.8 million displacements caused by natural disasters[7].

According to the Global Internal Displacement Report 2018, if the average number of people forcibly displaced by conflict in 2008-2012 was 4.82 million, and the average percentage of people displaced by conflict in total the forced displaced persons amounted to 16.3%, then in 2013–2017 these figures doubled – to 9.3 million people and 31.1%, respectively. The situation in Ukraine contributes to the growth of this indicator. Ukraine now has the largest number of internally displaced persons in Europe since the end of World War II [8].

Current migration processes in Ukraine are influenced by a number of important factors. These include[9]:

  • the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the economic recession they caused;
  • the launch of important reforms; however, these have turned out to be insufficiently credible and consistent;
  • progress in European and Euro-Atlantic integration, including introduction of the visa-free regime with the EU in 2017;
  • and the actual experience of migration with its resulting diversification of migration networks that have developed due to active participation of Ukrainians in labour migration abroad.

According to the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, there were 1,448,615 people registered as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in July 2020. As we can see, more than a million residents of Donetsk, Luhansk oblasts and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea have been forced to change their place of residence; half of them are children, the disabled and the elderly. Most IDPs are geographically located in areas close to their homes and under the control of the Ukrainian government. A significant number of internally displaced persons also moved to the first line of the regions adjacent to Donbass – Kharkiv, Dnipro and Zaporizhia.

The fact that migrants stay close to home means that they seek to maintain close ties with family members left at home and worry about the fate of the property, as well as the possibility of returning. Now in these regions the number of places for possible resettlement has decreased, but despite the availability of places to live in Western Ukraine, most IDPs do not want to travel across the country to take advantage of such accommodation. In addition to IDPs (organized IDPs), a significant proportion of IDPs migrated independently[10].

Today all cities in eastern Ukraine are geopolitical fault-line cities, and many are located near the country’s external borders. Moreover, many are dangerously close to the military frontline, adding an additional layer of complications. The most evident complications stem from what it means to be located near a military frontline in the first place.

First, this means that there is a real and constant threat of invasion, yet the perceptions of this threat are far from uniform, as are the feelings towards the potential invader. Second, this context may embolden the Faultline-frontline cities’ “risk entrepreneurs”, actors who may seek opportunities to cooperate with the potentially invading state’s authorities for personal, economic or political gain.

Third, being perceived as high-risk sites means that such cities inevitably deflect investment, contributing to increased economic hardship and dependency on external support. Finally, there are the flows of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees generated by the conflict. Such flows are usually initially directed towards safe areas within short distances from the areas of armed conflict, confronting the local authorities with an immediate requirement to provide shelter, while simultaneously increasing housing demand and the burden on public services such as healthcare and schooling[11].

The emergence of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine has affected both the security component and the overall lives of millions of people due to the sharp deterioration of the socio-economic situation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Industrial, transport and social infrastructure facilities in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts have suffered significant damage, and environmental risks have increased. There have been dramatic changes in the state of the economy of these regions, which accounted for about a quarter of industrial production and the same share of Ukraine’s exports. The decline in production and the massive closure of small and medium-sized businesses resulted in large-scale job cuts.

The ongoing armed conflict and active hostilities have led to such negative phenomena as: direct population losses; destruction of housing, social infrastructure and livelihood systems; population loss of housing and property; problems with the provision of administrative services and providing the population of the eastern regions with the necessary utilities; restricting access to medical care, social and educational services; economic decline and rapid growth of unemployment due to the closure of enterprises, the rupture of economic ties, the collapse of labor collectives, the physical destruction of production facilities; partial or complete destruction of the financial, banking, transport infrastructure and communication systems, etc.

In Ukraine, a new phenomenon of “sudden poverty” has emerged, i.e. a situation has arisen where the population, which could be classified as middle class, suddenly found themselves below extreme poverty due to armed conflict. population of the two eastern regions). Since 2014, numerous internal relocations in Ukraine caused by the annexation of Crimea and hostilities in the Donbas have been forced. Forced migration is fundamentally different from voluntary migration, aimed at improving the material and social situation, in that, on the contrary, it causes the loss of social status and the destruction of the welfare of migrants[12].

Ukraine constitutes a typical, but at the same time a profoundly difficult, case of displacement. First, not only the public perception of the displacement’s root causes provokes considerable public discontent, but officially, too, the external aggression has not been acknowledged in Ukraine. The misleading term “civil war in Ukraine” widely used by the top Russian officials and, occasionally, by the international community (including the UN high representatives, politicians and foreign observers) infiltrates public discourse through the media channels in a harmful way.

The term hybrid war, a different way of defining the conflict in Ukraine used by some local and international actors, makes it even more complicated to the wide public. From the host society’s perspective, as long as the war remains undeclared but Russian weapons and paramilitary forces are used against Ukraine in the east of the country, the role of the local population in Donbas, be it active or passive, will be perceived as hostile. Although the Ukrainian society in different regions shares ambiguous views of the war, the majority still perceive it as an external aggression with a considerable role of the locals financed and coordinated by the Russian Federation.

Second, Ukraine’s IDPs are not a socially, ethnically, religiously or ideologically homogeneous group. They reflect the country’s cultural diversity, represent different social strata and have different political views (from a fundamentally pro-Soviet to radically pro-European). In addition, some of the registered displaced persons have not been resettled, they applied for IDPs status to claim their social welfare payments in Ukraine (specifically pensions and childcare subsidies), but have been either unable to rent accommodation or unwilling to abandon their dwellings in the occupied territories. As a result, they move back and forth with no endeavor to integrate into a new community[13].

Since the beginning of the events in Crimea, the Crimean Tatars began to move abroad as well. Moreover, using the fact that they usually have larger extended families in comparison to ethnic Ukrainian families, they use a specific model of migration behaviour. The following scenario was described: “a family sends one of its members to one country (usually Turkey), he gets a job and accommodation and later the whole family with brothers and sisters move to this country too”.  This model is less common among ethnic Ukrainians due to the smaller family size, which makes it more difficult for 3–4 persons to collect money for one of their family members to go abroad[14].

The government has taken measures to assist and protect the country’s IDPs, including the adoption (in 2014) of a Law on Internal Displacement. In 2017, it adopted a three-year strategy to reintegrate displaced people and to facilitate their pursuit of long-term solutions, and has run programs in partnership with international organizations to support, resettle and protect them. Many IDPs have benefited from these measures, though many others still live-in precarious conditions. In 2016, IOM began conducting a regular complex survey of the situation of IDPs in Ukraine (the National Monitoring System or NMS) to support the various government and non-government stakeholders in the design of evidence-based policies and programmatic responses to IDPs.

The NMS annually reaches more than 15,000 conflict-affected persons across all the 24 oblasts (regions) of Ukraine, including IDPs who reside in government-controlled areas (GCA), those who have returned to the non-government-controlled areas (NGCA), and other groups.

The 2020-2021 survey revealed that the well-being of IDPs remained the same compared to the previous survey and that they had been affected by COVID’s impact on the labour market and the provision of services. IDPs benefitted from their access to social, health and employment services, but reported that they felt less integrated in their communities due to various housing issues. Many IDPs returning to the NGCA (Non-Government Controlled Areas) reported that their reason to return was related to their ownership of private property with no need to pay rent. Most of these were older than the IDPs who lived in other areas of the country.

The annexation of Crimea and military actions in the Donbas caused internal and external involuntary migration in 2014-2015. After an initial peak, the number of applications for asylum filed in EU countries gradually declined in 2018. This can be attributed to the stabilization of the situation in the country. The number of asylum applications lodged by Ukrainian nationals in the Schengen area decreased by 5%, with 9,505 applications in 2019 compared to 10,035 applications in 2018.

The rate of asylum recognition decreased to 10.2% in 2019, compared to 17.3% the previous year. In the first quarter of 2020, applications for asylum were received from 1,570 people, down 41% from the previous year. As for cooperation on readmission, there has been a decrease in the return rate, which in 2019 fell to 73%, compared to 85% the previous year. In real numbers, 27,200 Ukrainian nationals effectively returned in 2019. Since EU Member States report good cooperation on readmission of its own as well as third country nationals, this decrease in the return rates should not be attributed to underperformance or changes in the level of international cooperation, however. An ongoing EU-funded project will deliver an electronic readmission case-management system that aims to bring further efficiency. Ukraine’s efforts in meeting the visa liberalization requirements have been recognized as a positive sign in the operational cooperation with the EU countries.

Due to geographical proximity, family ties and pro-Russian sentiments of a segment of the population living in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, most involuntary migrants left for Russia. As of 1 January 2016, there were 311,000 Ukrainian citizens who were granted temporary asylum. In mid-2019, there were 60,000. Their number has decreased due to their return to their former homes and obtaining residence permits in Russia. Between 2014 and 2018, more than a quarter of a million Ukrainian citizens (265,000) participated in the IOM program for voluntary relocation to the Russian Federation, comprising almost one third (32.8%) of all participants. Most of them applied while they were staying in the territory of Russia[15].

Forced migration significantly affects the geography, structure and dynamics of the population of Ukraine and its regions, the level of development of productive forces in the regions, the state of the labor market and the socio -economic characteristics of living standards of different categories of the population. Both statistical and sociological data confirm that internally displaced persons are a resource for the development of communities, regions and countries in general, and mass examples of successful implementation of labor, entrepreneurial, scientific, educational and cultural activities of migrants provide a basis for optimistic assessments of their role and prospects, and the development of society, economy and state.

From the economic aspect, as a result of internal forced migration, the sex and age composition, and educational and professional levels, of the population of the donor region and the recipient region undergo significant changes. On the one hand, it leads to the elimination of labor shortages, increasing competitiveness, labor efficiency, economic growth and curbing inflation, on the other, increasing competition, reduction in the quality of work (through retraining displaced persons), an increase of the burden on the housing market and often an increase in the level of economic and other crime, and so on[16].

The processes of moving the population from the outset to Donbass seem to be of their own, as a kind of territorial movement from “classic” or traditional types of migration. This is primarily due to the reasons and motives for moving. The dominant reason for the mass forced relocation of citizens from eastern Ukraine was significant social dangers that threatened their lives and health due to active hostilities.

The basic motivation of citizens to leave the occupied territories was the desire to save their own lives and prevent damage to health. Attempts to save the lives of their siblings and relatives have become the second most important motive for forced relocation (as noted by almost 70% of experts). It is these two factors that motivated the citizens of Ukraine to leave the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts en masse. The dominance of the motive of self-preservation of life “at any cost” led to the fact that people urgently went to where there is no direct threat to life, where they do not shoot or bomb.

The choice of place of relocation was determined not only by territorial factors, but also by the similarity of living conditions. IDPs moved from a highly urbanized region, of course, and for future residence in most cases focused on cities, industrialized regions with more developed labor and housing markets, developed infrastructure, greater employment opportunities.

Another feature of the choice of relocation is due to the fact that at the same time from the occupied territory were relocated almost all higher education institutions, medical institutions, the entire banking and financial sector, individual enterprises and organizations, etc., and, as a result, moved there and most employees of these institutions. Thus, regions with a high share of migrants are characterized by both territorial proximity to permanent residence and the industrial nature of the economy in places of resettlement. [17].

Another problematic issue consists in difficulties of crossing the border from Ukrainian side to Crimea for Ukrainian citizens who have relatives in Crimea. It is not so easy for Ukrainian citizens to enter the territory of the peninsula through the Entry-Exit checkpoint which belongs to the occupying power, even if you have successfully passed the Ukrainian Entry-Exit checkpoint. First of all, it should be remembered that Russia considers Ukrainian citizens who did not receive a Russian passport in the Crimea as foreigners. In other words, in the understanding of the occupying power, a citizen of Ukraine without a Russian passport is a foreigner. The rules of entry into the territory of Crimea are not the same for foreigners and citizens of the Russian Federation. If Russian citizens are allowed to enter Russia without restrictions, then foreigners are subject to significant restrictions and only certain categories of citizens can enter the Crimea.

There are currently 4 categories of foreigners who are allowed to enter the temporarily occupied Crimea at the Russian Entry-exit checkpoint (EEC)[18]:

  • Family members (spouses, parents, children, adoptive parents, adopted children), guardians and trustees of Russian citizens. They need to present a valid identity document (for example, a passport of a citizen of Ukraine), a visa (only in cases where international agreements of the Russian Federation do not provide for a visa-free regime), a document confirming the degree of kinship.
  • Persons permanently residing in the territory of the Russian Federation (on the occupation EEC it is necessary to show the certificate of permanent residence in the Russian Federation).
  • Persons entering the Russian Federation in connection with the death of a close relative (husband, wife, parents, children, adoptive parent, adopted child, guardian and trustee). Such persons at the Russian EEC must present valid identity documents (eg, passport of a citizen of Ukraine), a copy of the certificate or death certificate (must be obtained in advance from relatives), documents confirming the degree of kinship (marriage certificate, certificate about birth, etc.).
  • Persons who once enter the Russian Federation to sick close relatives (spouses, parents, children, adoptive parents, adopted children), guardians and trustees in need of care. Such persons must be presented at the Russian EEC with: a valid identity document (for example, a passport of a citizen of Ukraine), a visa (only if international treaties of the Russian Federation do not provide for a visa-free regime), documents (or copies thereof) issued by a medical organization confirming the condition of close relatives, documents confirming the degree of kinship (marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc.).

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Decree No. 201[19] came into force on March 20, 2020. The executive edict adds Crimea and Sevastopol to “the list of Russia’s border territories where foreign citizens, stateless persons, and foreign legal entities cannot own land”. As such, non-Russians, including Ukrainian citizens who still reside in occupied Crimea but who refused to obtain a Russian passport, can now be stripped of their property. One year ago, Putin imposed a ban on land ownership in Crimea, thereby legitimizing the state’s appropriation of Ukrainian government assets and private property there.

Foreign citizens legally had one year to sell or re-register their property based in Crimea; but Russia, under the pretext of anti-pandemic restrictions, significantly limited outside access to Crimea, especially for those trying to enter the peninsula from Ukraine. Decree No. 201 is not only a violation of Ukrainian legislation (Crimea remains overwhelmingly recognized as de jure part of Ukraine) and international humanitarian law, but also represents another illegal step forward for Russia’s recolonization strategy in Crimea. The Russian authorities are trying to clear the occupied territory of “disloyal” residents and to erect a kind of “iron curtain” between Crimea and Ukraine.

Russia has been actively trying to increase the size of its “loyal” population by promoting and encouraging the in-migration of its citizens to Crimea. According to the Office of the Federal State Statistics Service in Crimea and Sevastopol, since 2014, 205,559 Russians moved to Crimea, of whom 88,445 settled in Sevastopol. As of January 2021, the population of Sevastopol was 513,149. Ukrainian authorities from the Ministry of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories and representatives of the Crimean Human Rights Group believe the real figures of such new settlers are much greater.

A large number of military personnel, employees of the federal government, local and federal executive branch agencies (the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Federal Security Service, the Investigative Committee, the Customs Service, prosecutor’s offices, the Border Service, the National Guard, the Tax Service, the Treasury, the Pension Fund), and members of their families are moving to Crimea without changing their permanent registration in Russian passports (because of the fear of being sanctioned), and thus they are not included in official statistics. Russian official statistics include only those who registered their place of residence in Crimea.

Additionally, Russian retirees from Moscow, the High North, Siberia and other wealthy areas have been actively buying up real estate in Crimea. Individuals from the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk “people’s republics” (LPR, DPR) have also contributed to migration flows into Crimea.

Since illegally annexing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, Russia has been forcibly shifting the region’s demographic composition and trying to replace the native Crimean population with its own loyal citizens. Moreover, these transformative migration flows enable the occupying authorities to create a Trojan Horse against any future efforts by Kyiv to return the peninsula to its control. The saturation of Crimea with siloviki and military personnel is also done intentionally, helping further militarize the region and populate Crimea with trusted armed people. According to Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949[20] and Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Statute of the International Criminal Court[21] (ICC), “the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” is completely prohibited and considered a war crime[22].

The annexation of Crimea and the armed conflict in Donbas in 2014 triggered a flow of not only internal but also external forced migration. Economic factors remain crucial in shaping the flow of external forced migration. The armed conflict in the eastern regions of Ukraine, the destruction of relations with Russia have exacerbated the economic crisis and the devastating economic effect of the conflict. Unemployment and poverty have risen sharply, stimulating the growth of Ukrainians’ intentions to find work abroad, mainly due to the inability to find work and means of subsistence for themselves and their families.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, from January 2014 to September 2017, 427.2 thousand of our citizens applied for asylum in Russia, 9.6 thousand – in Germany, 9.3 thousand – in Italy, 4.3 thousand – in Poland, 3.5 thousand – in France and 3.1 thousand – in Sweden[23].

Thus, at the beginning of the forced resettlement as of January 1, 2015, about 600,000 people sought asylum in other countries, including Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Poland, and Hungary. According to Eurostat, in 2017, 8,945 Ukrainians applied for asylum in EU countries. For comparison: in 2016, more than 11,000 Ukrainians applied for asylum in the EU, in 2015 – almost 21,000, in 2014 – 13.5 thousand. This trend suggests that many of the asylum seekers were internally displaced persons from eastern Ukraine (the most active phase of the armed conflict lasted from October 2014 to September 2015) [24].

Fundamental rights in the area of migration are enshrined in the Constitution of Ukraine and include the freedom of movement, non-discrimination and equality before the law. Ukraine’s migration law comprises a cluster of measures: “On Citizenship of Ukraine”, “On Freedom of Movement and Free Choice of Place of Residence in Ukraine”, “On the Procedure of Exit from Ukraine and Entry into Ukraine of the Citizens of Ukraine”,“On Border Control”, “On External Labour Migration”, “On the Legal Status of Foreigners and Stateless Persons”, “On Immigration”, “On Refugees and Persons Seeking Subsidiary or Temporary Protection”, “On Ukrainians Abroad”, “On Countering Human Trafficking”

The main legal act that regulates the rights of internally displaced persons is the Law of Ukraine “On Ensuring the Rights and Freedoms of Internally Displaced Persons.” Article 1 of this Law states that an internally displaced person is a citizen of Ukraine, as is a foreigner or a stateless person who is on the territory of Ukraine legally and has the right to permanent residence in Ukraine, who was forced to leave or left his place of residence as a result or to avoid adverse effects of armed conflict, temporary occupation, widespread violence, human rights violations and natural or man -made emergencies[25].

In addition to these laws there are regulations approved by the Government, including the State Migration Policy Strategy of Ukraine for the Period until 2025, which determines key objectives of the state migration policy and ways to achieve them.

As a founding member of the UN, Ukraine has ratified the main European and international Conventions. In the field of migration, Ukraine is a party to multilateral and bilateral international agreements, including: Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Migrant Smuggling and Human Trafficking Protocols to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, European Convention on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers, CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) Convention on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers and Their Family Members, Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour, ILO Minimum age Convention, 1973, Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

Responsibility for designing migration policy is split between the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine (MoI) and the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine (MSP), while the country’s State Migration Service (SMS) implements and makes recommendations on migration policy. These laws regulate aspects such as migrants’ rights as well as border crossing, immigration and emigration procedures. They are complemented by second-order legislation of the Cabinet of Ministers (Government) and other relevant Ministries and government agencies, such as the Ministry of Interior (MoI), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine (MFA), and the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine (SBGS)[26].

In 2015 the United Nations member states adopted the new Agenda for world sustainable development, for the period between 2015 and 2030. The 2030 Agenda declared the need to empower migrants, refugees and IDPs, which make positive impact on inclusive growth and sustainable development. Therefore, migration and human mobility have been included to the targets of SDGs No 4, 5, 8, 10, 16, 17. Despite the fact that migration and human mobility issues are mentioned directly only in six goals, they actually can affect the achievement of any goal.

No poverty – Anti-terrorist operation (ATO) in the East of Ukraine negatively affected population welfare. Many people had to leave their homes and move either to relatives or to unknown cities in search of a new place of residence and work. The impact of internal migration on the growth of poverty population is questionable. On the one hand, people have left their homes and property and, therefore, lost many resources. Women with children who thus could not work and poor people who had no savings became the most vulnerable population layer. On the other hand, people moved inside Ukraine or abroad searching for the better life. At present, the government of Ukraine does not meet even minimal social needs of IDPs.

Zero hunger – Subject to military conflict, the migration processes affect the financing opportunities of agriculture, access to land, the ability to supply food to dangerous territories (close to the demarcation line). The ATO took place in the fertile lands of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and included mine-laying in agricultural fields and transport routes, blowing up infrastructure buildings, roads and bridges.

Quality education – From 2014 to 2016 28 educational establishments, including 18 higher education institutions, were displaced from the East of Ukraine and Crimea to the territory under Ukrainian Government control. The quantity of students from displaced universities and academies is more than 40 thousand people; the quantity of teaching staff is about 3.4 thousand people. Migration of students to other regions in no way affected their studies in any particular institution. Students continue to study remotely, as many higher educational institutions have established e-learning platforms. Displaced students also had the right and attended classes in any other higher education institutions in different cities of Ukraine, if they moved to these cities. In addition, students from the ATO zone were allowed to transfer to other educational institutions of Ukraine with their scholarship and budget places, or renew the studies in the higher education institutions where they had studied provided, they had a long break in their studies and were dismissed.

Peace and justice, strong institutions – The problem of obtaining justice and peace are closely connected to the internal migration in Ukraine. On the one hand, the failure of attainment of the targets of goal No 16 became one of the main reasons for people’s moving, namely increasing danger to life, violence, death, crime, misappropriation of property, lack of legal protection, corruption etc. On the other hand, massive internal migration caused new conflicts, especially between IDPs and population of the hosting communities. International organizations pay attention to systematic human rights violations in ATO zone, including the territory under Ukrainian Government control. The most serious is the threat to the life of people because of continuing military actions.[27]

Ways to constructively address the problems of forced migration of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukraine will largely depend on the integration of IDPs issues into the general context of state migration policy to ensure security and development.

It is necessary to[28]:

  • Overcoming isolation in the state migration policy regarding forced migrants-IDPs from the east of Ukraine; ensuring the integration of conceptual, legislative, strategic and policy documents on internally displaced persons into the general context of migration policy;
  • Making changes and additions to the Strategy of State Migration Policy of Ukraine until 2025 with the disclosure of provisions on forced migration from eastern Ukraine and ensuring the integration of internally displaced persons into the legal framework of internal migration, ensuring consistency of Ukrainian migration legislation with Ukrainian legislation on internally displaced persons;
  • Improving the content of the IDPs Integration Strategy and implementing long-term internal displacement solutions until 2022, including positions on the use of IDPs as a development resource while coordinating the content with strategies, action plans and other legal documents on integrating migrants into local communities;
  • Making changes and additions to the migration legislation and to the Law of Ukraine “On Ensuring the Rights and Freedoms of Internally Displaced Persons” regarding the definition of mechanisms of financial, organizational and managerial, institutional, personnel, scientific, information support of its implementation;
  • Bringing the legal framework in the field of protection of migrants’ rights (including IDPs) in Ukraine in accordance with international standards and requirements;
  • Development and implementation of normative-legal and organizational-administrative mechanisms to provide IDPs with opportunities to realize the constitutional rights of a citizen of Ukraine in full; amendments to the relevant laws of Ukraine to ensure the voting rights of IDPs;
  • Creation of administrative and legal conditions for the development of social entrepreneurship; enshrining in the legislation tax benefits for social enterprises, in particular for those who provide assistance in solving social problems of IDPs;
  • Development and implementation of a strategy to support, rehabilitate and develop small and medium-sized businesses of IDPs in host communities in order to attract their potential to address local socio-economic problems while improving their own living standards and organic integration into the host community;
  • Establishing and disseminating cooperation with domestic research institutions, international organizations and foundations for research on migration and IDPs in Ukraine, taking into account the results of research in management decisions in the system of state migration policy.


Forced migration significantly affects the geography, structure and dynamics of the population of Ukraine and its regions, the level of development of productive forces in the regions, the labor market, the socio-economic characteristics of living standards of different categories of the population. Both statistical and sociological data confirm that IDPs are a resource for the development of communities, regions, countries in general, and mass examples of successful implementation of labor, entrepreneurial, scientific, educational, cultural activities of migrants provide a basis for optimistic assessments of their role and prospects for society, economy and state.

According to the typology of IDPs, regarding the intentions of relocation, those displaced persons who intend to remain in places of relocation in Ukraine act as a powerful resource for development; also those IDPs who intend to change their place of relocation within Ukraine, but do not return to the temporarily occupied territories and do not go abroad, as well as those IDPs who are focused on permanent residence abroad and are ready to act as potential investors successful business – projects in their homeland on the basis of the development of public-private partnership programs.

At the same time, the degree of completeness of this resource directly depends on the state’s ability to develop an effective migration policy, take into account the impact of threats to national and social security of Ukraine in connection with mass forced migration, actively cooperate with international non-governmental organizations (IOM). financial and intellectual resources. Identified ways to solve the problems of migration movements of IDPs will minimize the negative consequences of external and forced internal migration of the population of Ukraine, mitigate the impact of threats and dangers on the future.

Forced internal migration in Ukraine is “hybrid” in nature, being both group and family, partly permanent (some migrants do not want to return to places where they lived before the military conflict), partly temporary (some migrants returned less than six months later), partly pendulum (some migrants periodically return to the conflict zone for work, and then go to a new place of residence again); migration from the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine is political, military and economic, the main causes of which are hostilities, the economic crisis and the lack of work in the conflict zone[29].



[1] Migration and the Ukraine Crisis A Two-Country Perspective EDITED BY AGNIESZKA PIKULICKA-WILCZEWSKA & GRETA UEHLING

[2] Andrii Butyrskyi, Viktoriia Reznikova Internal Forced Migration in Ukraine: Legal AspectsBialystok Legal Studies Białostockie Studia Prawnicze 2021 vol. 26 nr 1

[3] Official data of the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, for details please see the

[4] Migration Profile UKRAINE

[5] Залученість внутрішньо переміщених осіб. URL:

[6] Years After Crimea’s Annexation, Integration of Ukraine’s Internally Displaced Population Remains Uneven

[7] Павлів-Самоїл Н. П ВИМУШЕНА МІГРАЦІЯ ЯК НАСЛІДОК ПОРУШЕНИХ ПРАВ // Вісник Національного університету “Львівська політехніка”. Серія : Юридичні науки. – 2019. – Вип. 21. – С. 70-76. – Режим доступу:

[8] Новікова О. Ф., Панькова О. В. Вимушена міграція внутрішньо переміщених осіб України: стан, проблеми, шляхи розв’язання// Соціальна економіка, політика та демографія

[9] Migration Profile UKRAINE

[10] Новікова О. Ф., Панькова О. В. Вимушена міграція внутрішньо переміщених осіб України: стан, проблеми, шляхи розв’язання// Соціальна економіка, політика та демографія

[11] Migration and the Ukraine Crisis A Two-Country Perspective EDITED BY AGNIESZKA PIKULICKA-WILCZEWSKA & GRETA UEHLING

[12] Міжвідомчий координаційний штаб повідомляє: з тимчасово окупованої території та районів АТО переміщено 898 тис. 95 осіб [Електронний ресурс]. – Режим доступу:

[13] Migration and the Ukraine Crisis A Two-Country Perspective EDITED BY AGNIESZKA PIKULICKA-WILCZEWSKA & GRETA UEHLING

[14] Drbohlav, Dušan and Marta Jaroszewicz, eds. 2016. Ukrainian Migration in Times of Crisis: Force and Labor Mobility. Prague: Charles University

[15] Migration Profile UKRAINE

[16] Andrii Butyrskyi, Viktoriia Reznikova Internal Forced Migration in Ukraine: Legal AspectsBialystok Legal Studies Białostockie Studia Prawnicze 2021 vol. 26 nr 1

[17] Новікова О. Ф., Панькова О. В. Вимушена міграція внутрішньо переміщених осіб України: стан, проблеми, шляхи розв’язання// Соціальна економіка, політика та демографія

[18] Перетнути межу з Кримом: головні правила

[19] Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of March 20, 2020 N 201 “On Amendments to the List of Border Territories Where Foreign Citizens, Stateless Persons and Foreign Legal Entities Cannot Own Land Plots”, approved by Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of January 9, 2011 No. N 26″ URL:


[21] Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. URL:

[22] Demographic Transformation of Crimea: Forced Migration as Part of Russia’s ‘Hybrid’ Strategy

[23] Доповідь щодо ситуації з правами людини в Україні, 16 травня – 15 серпня 2017 р. / Управління Верховного комісара Організації Об’єднаних Націй з прав людини. URL: https://www.

[24]  Україна. Оцінка відновлення та розбудови миру. Аналіз впливу кризи та потреб на східній Україні. Частина ІI: Звіти за компонентами (березень 2015 р.) / Представництво Європейського Союзу в Україні ; Представництво Організації Об`єднаних Націй в Україні; Група Світового банку. URL: http://

[25] Andrii Butyrskyi, Viktoriia Reznikova Internal Forced Migration in Ukraine: Legal AspectsBialystok Legal Studies Białostockie Studia Prawnicze 2021 vol. 26 nr 1

[26] Migration Profile UKRAINE

[27] Inna Semenenko, Olena Khandii

[28] Новікова О. Ф., Панькова О. В. Вимушена міграція внутрішньо переміщених осіб України: стан, проблеми, шляхи розв’язання// Соціальна економіка, політика та демографія

[29] Євген  Соловйов Детермінація основних понять міграційних процесів, що протікають в Україні, в ракурсі сучасних реалій