KYIV, Ukraine, 9 June 2016 (UNHCR) – A new study by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) shows that, after two years of displacement, hosting communities in Ukraine remain supportive towards internally displaced persons (IDPs). According to the research, presented jointly with the Ministry of Temporary Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons in Kyiv, nearly all respondents (83%) maintain positive or neutral towards people displaced by conflict in the east. This article first published on UNHCR’s website.
“Two years have already passed since the beginning of conflict in eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. These reasons have fostered many of the problems of Ukraine to recover. This includes the integration of internally displaced persons, primarily, the issue of host communities. Social and economic infrastructure of some host communities hardly meet the overload, which in turn creates a conflict between the local population and internally displaced persons. However, in two years, as the study shows, public attitude is mostly positive or neutral. In this regard, one of the tasks of the newly created Ministry is to increase the capacity of communities to respond to the challenges related to internal displacement”, said Vadym Chernysh, Minister of Temporary Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons.
The respondents tend to perceive IDPs as citizens who have found themselves in an unfavorable situation who are in need of help, being entitled to the same rights as others (89% Ukraine-wide, 96% in the cities with largest concentration of IDPs -CLP), and do not consider IDPs responsible for the situation they are trapped in. However, hosting communities (80% Ukraine-wide and 75% in CLP) believe that civic duties, such as military conscription, should be carried out by IDPs on equal terms.
“We are glad to see that hosting communities continue to support people forced to flee their homes. Volunteers and civic society play a crucial role in providing assistance to IDPs, including the most vulnerable”, highlights Pablo Mateu, UNHCR Representative in Ukraine
Mass media is the key source of information on displaced. Since only one fifth (17%) of all the inhabitants of Ukraine have had a conversation with an IDP, 65% of all respondents throughout Ukraine and 63% of respondents in CLP build their attitudes towards IDPs based on information gained from media.
The findings of the survey show that more than more than 60% of respondent throughout Ukraine are willing to hire IDPs or provide them with housing for rent.
The presence of IDPs has affected the daily lives of 30 % of host communities in major hosting areas. Some 25% of respondents have heard about competition between the long-term local population and IDPs for jobs, housing, places in schools and kindergartens, and waiting time in public facilities; however, a small number of interviewees have had first-hand experience in any of these situations.
The study has revealed that negative trends are strongest in the capital and western Ukraine. Thus, the presence of IDPs is more noticeable in Kyiv. About a third of residents in these areas have noticed the effects of IDPs in their communities. Kyiv residents assess the presence of IDPs unfavorably to a far greater extent than elsewhere. In particular, 39% of Kyiv residents share worries about a worsening crime situation; while in any other region no more that 16% share the same concern. 21% of Kyiv citizens perceive a rise in social tension, a figure twice as high as in any other region.
The percentage of people who know about competition between IDPs and the long-term local population is two to three times larger in Kyiv than in other areas, although the number of those who have experienced competition first-hand is no larger than elsewhere. Some 30% of Kyiv residents have also heard about conflicts with IDPs.
Inhabitants of Ukraine’s western region (especially if oblast centers are excluded from the sample) maintain more negative stereotypes about IDPs. In particular, the respondents in this sample emphasize the following features they attribute to IDPs: pro-Russian political views; unwillingness to work on equal terms; aggressiveness towards locals; arrogance; and the desire for special treatment fitting their circumstances. In addition, people in Western Ukraine are more likely to blame IDPs for the situation in which they find themselves. That said, residents of this region have the least direct communication with IDPs (50% of them have not spoken with a single IDP and are unaware of any IDPs living in their vicinity), and therefore have less opportunity to make their judgment about IDPs based on personal experience.
“Being a Chief of Luhansk civil-military administration, I have dreamed about such public surveys to show me a real state of things, in particular with regard to the displaced persons. I am happy that this process has started and I do hope it is just the first step”, added George Tuka, Deputy Minister of TemporaryOccupiedTerritories and Internally Displaced Persons.
As of May 2016, The Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine has registered over 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs).
In February-March 2016 the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology at the request of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) conducted a public opinion poll to assess the resident population of Ukraine’s attitudes towards IDPs. The main objectives of this study were to uncover the general attitude of the local population toward IDPs; to assess the prevalence of stereotypes and prejudices about the latter; and, to detail the perception of the impact IDPs have on city life as perceived by local residents. The publicly available information is contradictory. In some cases, local residents claim to have neutral / friendly attitudes toward IDPs, expressing compassion and understanding of the difficult situation in which IDPs have found themselves, while declaring their readiness to provide help. On the other hand, there is evidence of discrimination and prejudice against IDPs, as well as negative stereotyping and the existence of hidden and potential social conflicts.
As mentioned by the organizers, the results will be used to guide the development of future programs and activities, designed to enhance tolerance and promote peaceful coexistence in host communities.