IOM-commissioned study reveals opportunities for better migrant integration in Ukraine

3 June 2014

How do migrants in Ukraine live, where do they work, do they have equal access to healthcare and education and other public services on par with Ukrainian citizens, do they feel safe in Ukraine, and what are the needs for integration? Finding answers to these questions is essential to the development of an effective migrant integration policy.  In order to draft recommendations for relevant Ukrainian policy makers, International Organization for Migration (IOM), within an EU-funded project, conducted a comprehensive study on integration, hate crimes and discrimination of different categories of migrants*. The recommendations of the study were presented today at the Office of the Ukraine Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights to lay the foundation for an action plan of their implementation.

The study can be downloaded here.

IOM and the researchers looked at integration as a two-way process of mutual adaptation between immigrants on one hand, and the host country on the other. The results of the study showed that while legislation regulating access of foreigners to employment, education, medical care and housing in Ukraine is in place, real access is limited due to many migrants’ low level of awareness of their rights and knowledge of local languages. At the same time, the positions and attitudes of certain employers, civil servants, and service providers can also create obstacles for migrants to fully realize their rights.

“The current state policy on migrants’ integration in general is ineffective, approaches are not sustainable and do not correspond with the essential needs of migrants and refugees. The prevention of discrimination is often overlooked. There is an urgent need to improve relevant legislative acts and state programmes,” says Ukraine Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Valeriia Lutkovska.

Ukraine’s migration profile has undergone changes in recent years, and is in part notable for the steady growth in the number of foreigners registered as temporarily or permanently residing in the country, a varied group that increased by 10,000 to 20,000 annually from 2009 to 2012. They are immigrants from the former Soviet republics as well as from Africa and Asia. According to the official data of the Ministry of the Interior of Ukraine, in total there were 331,000 foreigners temporarily or permanently residing in Ukraine in 2013.

Eighty per cent of surveyed migrants residing in Ukraine are employed. Seventy-five per cent of them have at least a complete secondary education, including incomplete and complete higher education as well. Two-thirds of surveyed migrants are actively communicating with the local population and describe the attitude of the local population to them as positive. Half of the respondents expressed their willingness to get Ukrainian citizenship. 

“In the past 20 years, Ukraine has evolved from a relatively immobile society with limited freedom of movement to a country of origin, transit and increasingly destination of migrants. To date, the number of immigrants in Ukraine is small, which is the ideal circumstance to facilitate their integration into the society, given continued policy efforts in this direction,” explains IOM Ukraine Chief of Mission Manfred Profazi.

As the population of Europe is shrinking and ageing, Ukraine’s neighbours are beginning to realize that due to increasing labour shortages, more immigration will become necessary to fill this gap. Thus, Ukraine will be directly competing with other countries to maintain and grow its labour force. It is therefore of vital importance that Ukraine considers both how to promote circular and return migration for its own nationals and to attract migrants to work in Ukraine legally, providing them with possibilities to integrate into Ukrainian society. 

*300 migrants as well as leaders of their communities, from 61 different countries, were interviewed in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Luhansk, Lviv and Simferopol. In-depth interviews with experts, including staff of government Institutions and investigators, and an analysis of Ukrainian legislation and action plans on migrant and refugee integration were also conducted. The study is a part of the EU-funded MIGRECO project (Strengthening Migration Management and Cooperation on Readmission in Eastern Europe). MIGRECO assists Ukraine to develop a comprehensive migration management system in line with EU best practices, which will support Ukraine’s efforts in deepening the visa-free dialogue with the EU.