Hryhoriy Seleshchuk, Director of the Commission on Issues of Migration for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church recently turned to Caritas Ukraine with a request that they help repatriate a Ukrainian labour migrant from Murcia, Spain. Mr. Mykola, who left his homeland in search of work to support his family, was injured and therefore unable to work.
Rostyslav Kis’, Manager of Migration Projects for Caritas Ukraine explains: “After many phone calls to Mr. Mykola’s sister and community representatives in Spain, we learned that Mr. Mykola had a ticket from Valencia, Spain to Zhulyany, Ukraine but that he had no place to spend the night in Kyiv and no way to get to his native village in the Ivano-Frankivs’k region. We quickly contacted Fr. Roman Syrotych, Director of the Kyiv Caritas and Natalya Kozakevych, Executive Director of the Caritas Ivano-Frankivs’k UGCC; after hearing the details they quickly decided to help Mr. Mykola.
Caritas Kyiv agreed to meet Mr. Mykola at the airport, give him a place to spend the night and provide transportation in Kyiv and train tickets to Ivano-Frankivs’k. The Caritas Ivano-Frankivs’k UGCC agreed to meet Mr. Mykola at the Ivano-Frankivs’k train station and take him home. Everything worked efficiently as planned but Mr Mykola’s story is sad and reminds us of the troubles that Ukrainian labour migrants face.”
Ukrainian labour migrants take enormous risks by knowingly entering the EU on a tourist visa with the hope of working. They hope that they will get lucky and that they’ll avert potential troubles. No warnings about the dangers of illegal migration issued by the Ukrainian government or community organizations can stop an individual who has decided to seek a better life and better wages in a foreign country.
At the national offices of Caritas they sadly admit that Ukrainian citizens who violate migration policies and find themselves in trouble abroad can only rely on themselves and a handful of sympathetic NGOs for help. Ukrainian missions abroad in no way help resolve issues related to legal rights which they are designed to protect.
“Unfortunately, Ukraine has not addressed the issue of transporting her citizens home in the event of a medical emergency since independence. These incidents largely affect those living abroad illegally and who therefore don’t have the necessary insurance.
In these situations private individuals and organizations often help resolve the situation. Unfortunately and, sorry for sounding crude, it’s easier to repatriate a dead body back to Ukraine, because in that instance the Ukrainian embassy will help,” concludes Mr. Kis’.