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UN official praise prompt solution of refugees’ problems in Belgorod region of Russia

October 02, 2014, 2:26 UTC+3 BELGOROD
Melita Sunjic-Hummel said that as far as she could see the authorities of the Belgorod region were doing a huge amount work
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BELGOROD, October 2. /TASS/. Deputy Representative of the UN Higher Commissioner for Refugees, Melita Sunjic-Hummel, on Wednesday visited a provisional accommodation facility for forced migrants from southeastern Urkaine located near Belgorod, a city close to the border with Ukraine some 650 km to the south of Moscow.

The facility is located in the Yunost summer camp for children. It is housing 38 migrants, who are awaiting tickets and other documents to move to other parts of Russia.

The camp opened its doors for Ukrainian refugees a month ago after the last groups of children had left it, shortly before the start of the school year in Russia.

Since that time, the facility has hosted more than 450 Ukrainian citizens who fled the chaos and devastation produced by the Ukrainian government’s punitive operation in the southeastern regions.

Melita Sunjic-Hummel said that as far as she could see the authorities of the Belgorod region were doing a huge amount work and the local population was also demonstrating an impressive level of hospitality.

She said she had been amazed by a visit to Belgorod State University, which had managed to enroll more than 400 students from Ukraine for studies over a very brief period of time and, on top of that, had provided them with accommodations and meals and had offered many other forms of assistance.

Sunjic-Hummel said getting higher education was usually the most problematic issue for refugees but in this case the situation was settled at the highest possible level and she thanked her counterparts from the Belgorod region administration for organizing everything so promptly.

She was familiarized with the territory of the camp and with the rooms where the refugees were living and she also had an opportunity to speak to residents of the southeastern regions.

Infographics How to get refugee status in Russia How to get refugee status in Russia
About 10 thousand people filed applications with the Federal Migration Service (FMS) of Russia for refugee status in the recent 6 months. Infographics by ITAR-TASS

Natalya Alefirenko, who fled her native township of Novosvetlovka in Lugansk region together with her husband and son, is one of the Ukrainian migrants for whom the camp has become a temporary home. They do not have a place to return to, as their house was among a host of buildings that underwent a raid of the notorious Aidar battalion, along with a nearby school and a kindergarten.

At first the Alefirenkos went to the city of Nizhny Novgorod in the middle reach of the Volga River but the cold and humid climate there immediately had an impact on the health of her six-year-old child, and the parents decided to move somewhere in southwestern Russia, which is known for a much milder climate.

At present, Natalya and her husband are waiting for appropriate job vacancies, after which the family will look for affordable housing and will start living from scratch, as the Ukrainian refugees put it.

“We don’t want any warring, we don’t hold arms in our hands, and why on earth our children are labeled as terrorists?” Natalya said. “We want to drive our message home to the country’s /Ukrainian - TASS/ authorities but no one is just listening to us. They don’t believe want peaceful skies over our heads and we on our part are totally unaware of what they want.”

Melita Sunjic-Hummel’s visit will continue through to October 2. As part of it, she will be taken to the temporary accommodation facilities in the Ivnya and Yakovlevo districts. The findings she will make in the course of the trips will be discussed at a conference where officials from the Belgorod branches of a number of federal agencies and ministries and healthcare experts will take part.

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