In Ukraine, UNDP provides legal aid where thousands cross checkpointDec 15, 2017
UNDP has opened the first legal aid office to be located at a checkpoint in Eastern Ukraine. Thanks to the center, people who transit between government- and non-government controlled areas will get support on the premises instead of having to travel longer distances to claim social benefits or obtain legal documents.
On average, more than 7,000 people cross every day at the Novotroitske checkpoint, a large majority of whom are vulnerable people, including the elderly, people with disabilities and women. The office will provide legal counseling – including oral and written advice, the preparation of legal documents and referrals - to more than 600 people a month crossing the contact line at this checkpoint.
In a year, the number of people crossing the five checkpoints on the line of contact in eastern Ukraine increased by 30 percent compared to 2016, and totaled more than a million people. A large majority of them have been condemned by the conflict to go back and forth across the contact line to resolve issues related to claiming their social benefits.
“People living in the contact line area are left in limbo,” noted UNDP Ukraine Country Director Janthomas Hiemstra. “Many don’t have the right identification documents to claim their pensions or health benefits, register their newborn, or just renew their passport outside of the non-government-controlled area. While the shelling continues they put their lives at risk on a daily basis.”
Many people who live in the non-government controlled area have seen the payment of their pension suspended, while claiming their social benefits requires multiple trips across the line of contact. Surveys show that many give up trying to do so, due to the high cost and risks from travelling.
“We have a network of centers that provide free legal aid throughout the country – more than 500 centers, including in Donetsk Oblast, but we understand that people's needs are even greater for those who cross the contact line,” said Serhiy Petukhov, Deputy Minister of Justice in Ukraine.
“We conducted mobile consultations at checkpoints, and now we’re moving to the stage of creating fixed offices here. There is already such a point in Mayorsk, and now there will be one operating in Novotroitske too. People cross the contact line and often have no information or access to the Ukrainian media, they are not aware of the legislative innovations, they are not always guided by up to date legislation, or they do not know how to obtain documents and social payments. At this mobile legal aid office they can get an initial, brief consultation – general answers about how to do what,” he added.
The closest legal aid office to the Novotroitske checkpoint used to be in the town of Volnovakha, which is 30 kilometers away from the line of contact, and which is difficult for the elderly, people with disabilities and persons with children to get to.
UNDP supports legal aid offices in eastern Ukraine with training on the “Emotional Competence and Conflicts Resolution” for both Mariupol and Kramatorsk Secondary Legal Aid Centers.
The mobile office was installed and equipped by the United Nations Development Programme, with financial support from the government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in cooperation with the government of Ukraine.
Yevgeniy Zelenko, UNDP Ukraine Media Officer
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