Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Holds Meeting with States Parties on the Situation of Persons with Disabilities in Ukraine and in Countries where they Fled Following the Russian Aggression
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this afternoon held a meeting with States parties on the situation of persons with disabilities in Ukraine and in countries where they fled following the Russian aggression.
Jonas Ruskus, Committee Vice Chair, said the Committee this afternoon would interact with States parties of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities about the situation of persons with disabilities in Ukraine and in countries where they had fled after 24 February 2022.
Since that day, the Committee had received worrying information indicating situations affecting the human rights of persons with disabilities in Ukraine in relation to the Russian aggression against that country. The Committee, alarmed by the seriousness of these allegations, decided to make a call for written submissions to concerned States parties and invited them to participate in this public meeting.
Ukraine said that almost six months had passed since the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine. The plight of persons with disabilities was particularly tragic and required special attention. The Government was providing shelter, emergency intervention, and in-patient care for persons with disabilities. The Government had established a programme supporting the evacuation of persons with disabilities living in institutions, but only 10 per cent of such persons had been successfully evacuated abroad.
In closing remarks, Ukraine thanked civil society organizations for the work that they performed daily to help those in need, and neighbouring Governments for their support. Ukraine would continue to make reforms to support persons with disabilities despite the conflict situation.
The Committee heard statements from European Union, Lithuania, European Commission, Latvia, Republic of Moldova, and Türkiye.
Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here. The programme of work of the Committee’s twenty-seventh session and other documents related to the session can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 18 August, to continue its review of the combined second and third periodic report of China (CRPD/C/CHN/2-3).
JONAS RUSKUS, Committee Vice Chair, said the Committee this afternoon would interact with States parties of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities about the situation of persons with disabilities in Ukraine and in countries where they had fled after 24 February 2022.
Beginning that day, the Committee had received worrying information indicating situations affecting the human rights of persons with disabilities in Ukraine in relation to the Russian aggression against that country. The Committee, alarmed by the seriousness of these allegations, decided to make a call for written submissions to concerned States parties and invited them to participate in the public meeting.
States parties were obliged to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters. Mr. Ruskus thanked all those parties to the Convention that had made written contributions or were present to give statements about ongoing developments in Ukraine and neighbouring countries where people had fled. These parties were Bulgaria, Italy, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Türkiye, Republic of Moldova and Belarus.
Ukraine said that almost six months had passed since the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine. Tens of thousands of persons had lost their lives. Dozens of cities had been razed to the ground. The list of Russia’s crimes was endless. The plight of persons with disabilities was particularly tragic and required special attention. Ukraine expressed gratitude to international partners for their support for Ukrainian persons with disabilities. Several institutions provided social services to persons with disabilities in Ukraine. The infrastructure of these institutions had been damaged by Russian attacks, and the number of social workers operating in the State was decreasing. The Government was providing shelter, emergency intervention, and in-patient care for persons with disabilities, and had shortened the decision-making process related to these services to two days. Non-governmental organizations and international organizations were also providing assistance. Payments of pensions and cash assistance was also provided by the Government in a timely fashion.
Persons with disabilities faced difficulties regarding evacuation, and many had been taken forcibly to the Russian Federation. The Government had established a programme supporting the evacuation of persons with disabilities living in institutions, but only 10 per cent of such persons had successfully evacuated abroad. Over 50 institutions were in occupied territories, which the Government could not reach to support. About 3,300 residents had so far been evacuated. As of June 2022, more than 3,000 persons with disabilities had been classified as internally displaced persons.
Ukraine had compiled its combined second and third periodic report under the Convention. It hoped that the meeting would highlight that the Russian Federation had abandoned its responsibilities under the Convention and international human rights law. The only way to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in Ukraine was for Russia to cease military activity in the State.
European Union said that the European Union remained extremely concerned regarding the intense fighting in the east of Ukraine. Millions of civilians were stranded, in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. Persons with disabilities encountered additional barriers and making humanitarian aid available to these persons was a priority for the European Union. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was the only human rights treaty ratified by the European Union. All actions financed by the European Union considered the needs of persons with disabilities. Actions focused on mental health and psychosocial support, among other support.
The European Union was committed to leaving no one behind. Around 348 million euros of humanitarian assistance from the European Union had so far reached 11.7 million people. Over 1,000 critically ill and wounded Ukrainians had been provided with assistance. Humanitarian needs were increasingly becoming difficult to address. Hygiene kits were being provided for elderly persons and persons with disabilities, and rehabilitation and care services were also provided. Temporary accommodation was provided to internally displaced persons. The medical evacuations of persons with disabilities had been organised by partner organizations. Assistance devices such as walking sticks were provided to elderly persons. The European Union was also working with the United Nations Refugee Agency to establish “blue dot” spaces, which provided shelter for refugees. The European Union would continue to work to provide humanitarian assistance to all those in need in the State.
Lithuania said that persons with disabilities were at risk in Ukraine, particularly children. Persons living in institutions often did not have access to family support. Lithuania provided temporary residence permits for Ukrainian refugees. Ukrainians with disabilities were eligible to access all social and health services provided by the Lithuanian State. They were also supported in accessing the labour market and were provided with disability benefits. Twenty-six persons had thus far been provided with special needs services. Nine Ukrainian citizens of retirement age had also been provided with assistance. Persons with disabilities were also able to access housing support, and mobility assistance was provided to persons who needed it. Personal assistants were available to all persons with disabilities. Sign language interpretation services were provided, as were target compensations such as disability pensions. By 1 August, social care services had been provided to 65 children from Ukraine, and a social care centre had accommodated 35 children from Ukraine.
European Commission said that the European Commission had established a new mechanism for receiving and integrating Ukrainian refugees in other countries. Asylum was a fundamental right, and European Union countries had a responsibility to receive asylum seekers and process them according to defined standards. An action plan on the inclusion and integration of migrants had been established in 2021. A taskforce had been developed to support Ukrainian women seeking asylum in European countries. The European Commission had also developed a temporary protection directive that protected Ukrainian citizens who had arrived in the European Union. The directive provided regulations for the provision of access to labour markets and health services.
The European Union had committed to facilitating the migration and integration of persons with disabilities. The European Asylum and Integration Fund provided funds for the protection of persons with special needs, including refugees with disabilities. Guidelines for supporting persons with disabilities at borders had also been developed. The European Commission had identified specific challenges, such as in providing support for children from institutions, especially children with disabilities, and had developed strategies for providing that support. The European Commission would continue to do its upmost to protect all Ukrainian citizens who had fled to Europe.
Latvia expressed deep regret that the situation in Ukraine continued to deteriorate. Persons with disabilities were at higher risk, as they faced difficulty in reaching shelter. Latvia had pledged to support all persons fleeing Ukraine, particularly persons with disabilities. Ukrainian refugees received housing, food and health support in Latvia, and could access the same services as Latvian nationals. Ukrainian persons with disabilities were eligible to apply for special care allowances and social security in Latvia. Disability had been determined for over 100 Ukrainian refugees so far, and more than 100 additional refugees had applied for disability support. Latvia condemned in the strongest possible terms the Russian invasion of Ukraine and supported Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Türkiye said that since the beginning of the war in February, over 300,000 Ukrainians had entered Türkiye. Türkiye hosted the highest number of refugees in the world, currently over 4 million people, providing all fundamental rights and services for the refugees it was hosting. A 90-day visa exemption was applied to Ukrainians and foreigners in Ukraine who came to Türkiye due to the war. Temporary accommodation centres had been established for Ukrainians in need. In these accommodation centres, access to many rights and services such as education, health, interpretation and consultancy was provided. For Ukrainians outside the temporary accommodation centres, access to basic rights and services was also provided.
The majority of Ukrainian citizens who came to Türkiye were women and children. They benefited from health, education and social assistance services. Nearly 1,200 foster children and orphans had been brought to Türkiye since the beginning of the war and 118 of these children had disabilities. Almost 500 caregivers or accompanying persons had also joined them. The Ministry of Family and Social Services provided all necessary services to these people, including healthcare and psychosocial support. Turkish social services staff, including psychologists, conducted daily rehabilitation services and participated in social inclusion programmes. All the children continued their regular education in Ukraine distantly. Turkish classes, art classes and physical education were also provided for these children by the State.
If the war continued, Türkiye envisaged welcoming a further 3,000 children from Ukraine. It would continue to help all those affected by the war and work towards achieving peace without delay.
Republic of Moldova said that a regulation establishing an intersectoral cooperation mechanism for the identification, assistance, and monitoring of children at risk coming from the territory of Ukraine had been approved in April 2022. There were 100 centres for children and persons with disabilities in the Republic of Moldova. Around 518 persons with disabilities had access to social security in the Republic of Moldova and 23 children were currently in Moldovan centres for rehabilitation. The Minister of Labour and Social Protection had authorised more than 100 placement centres throughout the country. These centres were created and managed by local public authorities. Many refugees also lived with local families. The Ministry ensured the availability of accommodation places in temporary placement centres for persons with disabilities. It also supported the transport of refugees who wished to travel to other countries.
Free telephone assistance was provided to refugees 24 hours a day. From February to July, 115 refugees had called the phone line to ask about members of their family and had received support. Specific support provisions such as massage mats, glasses, medicine and transport services were provided for persons with disabilities, and sign language interpretation was also provided.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert thanked all participants for informing the Committee about the services provided for Ukrainian persons. Institutionalised persons had been abandoned in Ukraine, and had not received basic provisions needed to survive. What had been done to assist these individuals? Were institutionalised refugees placed into institutions in host countries? The Committee called on States to work toward deinstitutionalisation.
Another Committee Expert thanked the speakers for the support they had provided to Ukrainian refugees. What measures had been taken to care for refugees with intellectual disabilities? What role did civil society play in supporting individuals?
One Committee Expert said that persons with disabilities were often left behind in conflict situations. What education support was provided for refugees with disabilities? Were there efforts to reunite institutionalised refugees with their families?
A Committee Expert paid tribute to the Ukrainian Government, which was working to ensure the safety of persons with disabilities, and to neighbouring countries for their generous support. What measures were needed to protect female refugees? What could the United Nations and other international organizations do to protect female refugees from violence?
One Committee Expert asked what steps were being taken to address the perpetrators of violence and abuse experienced by women and girls with disabilities? To what extent were organizations of persons with disabilities involved in interventions?
Another Committee Expert asked if there was accessible information being made available in formats such as braille for persons with disabilities fleeing Ukraine.
A Committee Expert asked about the current situation of persons living in institutions in Ukraine. What plans were in place to rescue persons in such institutions, and to support independent living? Were there any financial support programmes in place for persons with disabilities in Ukraine?
One Committee Expert asked if disaggregated data on persons with disabilities who had fled Ukraine was available. How did persons with disabilities reach camps in neighbouring countries, and what support was being provided to these persons to get out of Ukraine.
A Committee Expert asked what actions had been taken to prevent the trafficking of children with disabilities? How were such children being provided with education?
Another Committee Expert asked how mental health services could be ensured not only for persons with disabilities but for the population in general.
A Committee Expert asked what measures were being taken to ensure that persons with hearing and visual impairments had access to essential services. What specific measures were in place to improve accessibility in emergency systems? Persons in institutions were at greater risk of abuse. What steps had been taken to improve data collection on persons with disabilities living in institutions, camps and evacuation sites?
One Committee Expert said that the European Union had an isolating practice relating to the provision of funds. It had not permitted funds in certain cases. What was the European Union’s position on the use of funds for supporting institutions working with persons with disabilities?
JONAS RUSKUS, Committee Vice Chair, asked about measures taken to collect disaggregated statistics on persons with disabilities. What efforts had been made to include refugees with disabilities in social support programmes? To what extent were persons with disabilities included in the design of humanitarian aid programmes? What psychosocial support was provided to persons with disabilities who experienced work-related trauma in Ukraine?
Responses by the Delegation
Ukraine thanked the Committee for its support as Ukraine continued to counter unjustified and unprovoked attacks. The Government was working with numerous civil society organizations and was grateful for the work that they performed on a daily basis to help those in need. It also thanked neighbouring Governments for their support. Ukraine would continue to make reforms to support persons with disabilities in spite of the conflict situation. Sirens were the daily reality for persons in Ukraine. Ukraine would ensure that it implemented its international obligations for those most in need.
Lithuania said that the Government supported all persons from Ukraine, especially persons with disabilities. Over 62,000 Ukrainians had arrived in Lithuania so far. Every child needed access to their family. Non-governmental organizations were helping to identify the needs of persons with disabilities. All important information was provided in Ukrainian language.
European Union said that humanitarian partners provided psychosocial assistance all over Ukraine, especially in the east of the country. United Nations agencies were providing support for victims of gender-based violence. The European Union had experts in the country conducting regular monitoring missions. Audits of funding were also conducted. Humanitarian partners were providing food, hygiene and sanitation kits to persons in institutions. The European Union was conducting dialogues with persons with disabilities to ensure that they were part of the support process.
European Commission said that the European Commission had complex funding procedures, not to make funding difficult to access, but to allow experts to take the lead in certain matters. Financial assistance was available through the European Asylum and Integration Fund. This funding was provided to bodies designated by national authorities.
Latvia said that Latvia prohibited the adoption of unaccompanied child refugees, instead appointing emergency guardians and providing those guardians with support.
Türkiye said that 1,300 foster children had been brought to Türkiye, and over 100 of these children had disabilities. The Ministry of Health provided support for this vulnerable group. Protection desks had been established to determine and support persons with special needs.
Republic of Moldova said that temporary passports were issued to Ukrainian children in the country. There was a law on deinstitutionalisation. The majority of Ukrainian refugees were women, and the Government of the Republic of Moldova was taking concrete actions in defending their rights.
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