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Russia welcomes flow of refugees from Ukraine’s southeast

June 04, 2014, 18:47 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Dmitry Buyanin

MOSCOW, June 04. /ITAR-TASS/. The humanitarian disaster in Ukraine’s southeast, where the government continues the military operation against the civil population, swells the number of Ukrainian refugees moving to Russia. Here they meet warm support of the population and the government. But along with the humanitarian aspect, there are economic issues. Experts agree that a vast influx of migrants will inevitably face Russia with the need for their adaptation and systematic state support. Even so, the benefits of Ukrainian migrants’ integration into the Russian economy outweigh the disadvantages, analysts believe.

Thousands of Ukrainians have to escape from the war, some with small children in their arms, without money and even essentials. The number of refugees has been rapidly increasing, and the Russians express readiness to accept Ukrainian families fleeing the bombed city of Donetsk and Sloviansk under assault. Communities in social networks offer accommodation and clothes to forcibly displaced people. Refugees find shelter even in monasteries.

On Tuesday, the Russian human rights ombudsman Ella Pamfilova told the Russian president Vladimir Putin the migrants' flow from the southeast of Ukraine had been increasing, the people coming not only to the border areas but as far as Yekaterinburg in the Urals.

“In some places, the authorities react quicker, while in others they are absolutely indifferent. The people help refugees but there is no system,” she said adding there was a need for “an urgent programme” for the refugees’ adaptation and employment. The president pledged to give relevant instructions.

The ombudsman was surprised at the reaction of the Western countries that remained “deaf, blind and dumb” to the humanitarian catastrophe. A humanitarian corridor was necessary in the zone of hostilities, Pamfilova said.

The Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS) says the flow of migrants from Ukraine remains steady on the rise. According to the authority’s head Konstantin Romodanovsky, the number of refuge applicants has increased threefold on the average, which prompted the FMS to take additional measures.

“The number of visiting refugees from Ukraine has recently increased, but we refer them to the FMS,” an employee at the Civil Assistance Committee that helps refugees and forced migrants Marina Leksina told ITAR-TASS. “The FMS provides active support in obtaining the refugee status, and there have been no refusals, not as we know of.” Special FMS offices have been opened in Moscow to help the Ukrainian refugees.

Professor of state and municipal administration department at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Tatyana Ilarionova, foresees difficulties, as Russia has not created any infrastructure to accept refugees.

“Realization of the state programme to invite compatriots back from abroad has revealed inefficiency of the existing system,” she told ITAR-TASS. “Far less people came back than expected, and those who came to the twelve pilot regions ran into numerous difficulties.”

Ilarionova doubted Russia could duly react to a sharp increase in the flow of fleeing Ukrainians. A new system should be based on international experience, the expert said, citing the integration of Germans from Russia as an example. In Germany, special offices issued all the necessary papers within two weeks, while accommodation was selected according to the migrants’ supposed employment. These issues, Ilarionova believes, should be resolved within the FMS, without any new bodies set up.

The director of the RANEPA centre for migration policy research Viktoria Ledeneva believes the Ukrainian refugees should be accepted and integrated in society despite any difficulties - not only from the humanitarian point of view but also for the sake of Russia’s labour and demographic potential.

“These are mostly high-skilled specialists, in contrast to, say, migrants from Central Asia. They speak Russian well, and our economy needs them,” she told ITAR-TASS.

The expert does not think Russia will fail to integrate refugees from Ukraine even if the influx increases significantly, as the 2007 compatriots resettlement programme was expected to welcome back several millions, but only 250,000 arrived. This, Ledeneva believes, means the programme’s resources can be used to accommodate the newcomers.


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