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Coming back to native land – how does it feel like for Ukrainian migrants?

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27.05.13, Ukraine
Caritas Ukraine has been dealing with social problems of Ukrainian migrants  for the last 7-8 years. There are programs on social reintegration of migrants, then, there is a network of Consultative assistance centers for human trafficking victims. Moreover, aid is rendered to victims of human trafficking. Earlier, scientific and sociologic researches of migration process were organized with involvement of external experts. Lobbying of Ukrainian migrants rights and interests was also provided. That’s why, in Ukraine Caritas operates considerable and unique experience in such sphere.

We interviewed Iryna Mayevska about the latest achievements, migration policy in Europe and voluntary return of Ukrainian migrants. She is a lawyer and a manager of acting reintegration project of Caritas Ukraine.



  • Iryna, can you speak about voluntary return? Who can assist in reintegration of Ukrainian workers abroad? What is the purpose?

Programs of voluntary return exist in every country of the EU as a result of cooperation between governments and representatives of NGO’s. The objective of such programs is practical implementation of effective and humanitarian voluntary return policy of foreign citizens in their home countries or other countries that are ready to host them. As a rule, program of voluntary return is designed for:
•    individuals who await the decision on getting refugee status or asylum, or they got a refusal;
•    refugees or individuals who have temporary protection, but are willing to return to native land;
•    people who don’t have required documents and are migrants with unregulated status;
•    other category of foreigners whose return doesn’t infringe requirements of international contracts and countries’ obligations.

  • Can we say that it is regulated at legislative level of certain countries and has acting mechanisms of implementation?

Well, legal basis for voluntary return program in the EU countries is the European Commission Directive of December 16, 2008 on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals. This directive determines procedures according to which member-states can provide the return to home land of those migrants who don’t have legal basis for staying on the EU territory. It confirms as an advantage practice of voluntary return of migrants done by the states compared to compulsory return and provision of guaranteed period for voluntary return.

  • Who is financing voluntary return of migrants? Is it guaranteed for all migrants from Ukraine?

In many countries migrants with unregulated status are offered possibility of voluntary return to motherland. As a rule, this return is accompanied by rendering relevant financial assistance. In case when migrants don’t agree with offer of voluntary return, procedure of compulsory return, including readmission, will be applied.

These are cases when countries’ mutual obligations, fixed in international agreements, on taking back own citizens, third country nationals and stateless persons who arrived illegally on the territory of a contracting party, or arrived legally lost grounds for legal residence enter into force.

Refusal to readmission of own citizens is a deliberate policy of some countries (such as China) that seek to increase its diaspora abroad. For Ukrainians in situation of current state of unemployment, illegitimacy of power, bureaucracy of public institutions, higher taxes, etc. – a refusal of readmission and return are equally terrifying.

  • Who is involved in the process of voluntary return of migrants?

In Western countries numerous civic, charitable and religious organizations form a strong force that stand for rights of migrants. They are carrying constructive discussion with officials, organizing advocacy campaigns for support and protection of migrants’ rights.

Some European countries with continued migration traditions (Germany, France and Austria) have developed wide range of services for migrants which are financed by government and non-government organizations. Counseling and assistance services form common working field for Caritas offices in Europe. It provides possibilities to get a huge experience in rendering social, legal and psychological support.

In many EU member-states it became possible to persuade the authorities that migrant has to receive support and understanding at all stages of return, particularly in home country. It was done in order to implement an effective policy of return. Such approach will be actable for all sides.

  • It seems that quite a lot of money is spent for return and socialization of migrant? Is it done at the expense of the country he/she comes back to?

Surely, it isn’t done by financial means of the Ukrainian state. In 2008 special fund (European foundation of migrants return) was created to help the state in financing the return of foreign citizens to countries of their origin. Caritas Ukraine, in particular, receives support from these sources for its reintegration work.

In course of 2011-2013 Caritas Ukraine has been implementing STAVR ІІ project ‘Sustainable reintegration after voluntary return’. The aim of the project: to raise chances for successful reintegration of migrants who came back after staying in Belgium by means of giving qualified aid. It is required to address consultants in Caritas Belgium in order to become a participant of the project. They will instruct a migrant who is willing to take part in the program about criteria, conditions and possibilities of this project.

By means of this project Caritas Ukraine have rendered assistance to 34 migrants and their family members, 13 of them are children:
–    social support and legal counseling;
–    consultations on setting up and leading own business;
–    material help in the form of necessary equipment to set up own business;
–    financial assistance for improving household conditions;
–    temporary rent of residential space;
–    aid for medical treatment and health restoration.

  • Where are repatriates involved after their return from Belgium?

The main emphasis in our project is put on providing possibilities for beneficiaries to set up own business or get a decent job. It’s undoubtedly true that unemployment and incapability to earn a living for a family result in labor migration of Ukrainians. At the moment 4 people are registered as private entrepreneurs, 4 are officially employed and 2 are self-employed without hiring procedure, 2 are registered in the Employment center in order to get a job.

  • Apart from Caritas Ukraine, who is carrying activities on voluntary return of migrants?

Virtually, Caritas Ukraine is a unique organization in Ukraine who doesn’t only contribute to return of Ukrainians from foreign countries, but renders them a helping hand. This assists in restoring and saving family relationships that got lost for years of absence and turning to a decent society member.

Recently, at the beginning of April project team made a monitoring visit in Kherson oblast to beneficiaries who came back from abroad in autumn last year. The aim of the visit is to meet former migrants. This gives opportunity to evaluate the state of reintegration and social adaptation in current Ukrainian realities; and the efficiency of help provided.

  • What are these Ukrainian realities for former migrants?

Stories or our clients are very familiar. For them migration was a forced step they took because of losing job or possibility to earn a living for their families. However, life abroad without required documents didn’t give desired results. It’s getting more complicated to find a job without permission to work in the EU member states. Earnings aren’t stable and become a risky business.

As a rule, in such situations friends and acquaintances that have a greater experience of staying abroad advise to ask for asylum in the host country. In fact, going through the procedure of receiving asylum the state at least provides you with accommodation, food and protection from police pursuit. Migrants who don’t have decent cause to get a refugee status get right to come back home with help of voluntary return program.  

  • Can you compare demand and offer for services on voluntary return of Ukrainian migrants to native land?

Unfortunately, only a scarce number of Ukrainian citizens can use program of reintegration assistance when returning back home. However, facing hard financial situation it’s a reason for risky trips with doubtful earnings. If you have lost a job, but have reasonable entrepreneurial idea, you can address local Employment center to get micro-financing for own business. Individual who has faith in own powers and rationally approaches solving problematic issues has big chances for success!

If one turns out to be in a foreign country and recognizes a need to return to Ukraine, anyway he/she can find local Caritas and ask for help.

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