World Aids Day

Protecting human rights of refugees and asylum seekers in the context of HIV and sexual orientation in Ukraine

Asylum seekers and refugees are entitled to all the rights and fundamental freedoms spelled out in international human rights instruments. This includes the right to protection if they have HIV, TB or have a different sexual orientation and identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or questioning (LGBTIQ). In 2020, the UNHCR and ILO, with support from UNAIDS, implemented a virtual capacity-building project targeting the staff of the State Migration Service (SMS) in Ukraine that deals with refugees and asylum seekers.

Article | 19 April 2021

Background

Asylum seekers and refugees are entitled to all the rights and fundamental freedoms spelled out in international human rights instruments. This includes the right to protection if they have HIV, TB or have a different sexual orientation and identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or questioning (LGBTIQ). This calls for raising awareness and strengthening capacities of the officials of the government migration services.

According to UNHCR and the State Migration Service (SMS) Ukraine, there were 2 218 refugees as of 30 June 2020; and 2731 asylum seekers, as of 31 January 2021, registered in Ukraine. The population is very diverse, coming from 60 countries.

In 2020, the UNHCR and ILO, with support from UNAIDS, implemented a virtual capacity-building project targeting the staff of the State Migration Service (SMS) in Ukraine that deals with refugees and asylum seekers.

The project aimed at strengthening the capacity of regional departments of the SMS through awareness-raising on HIV/TB/COVID-19 and LGBTIQ issues with a view to preventing discrimination on these grounds for refugees and persons applying for asylum; and improving the quality of the SMS decisions on asylum claims by people living with HIV and those identifying themselves as LGBTIQ.


Salient features of the strategy:

Online training due to COVID-19

Five online training activities were organized for employees of the SMS, including a training of trainers on the process of determining refugee status free from discrimination on grounds of HIV and LGBTIQ. Training also integrated COVID-19 prevention. The SMS regional departments were provided with transparent protective barriers to be installed at their reception desks.

57 employees (47 female, 10 male) from 12 biggest SMS regional departments were trained including 16 from the management cadre. 11 staff members (8 female, 3 male) were trained as trainers and gained the status of national trainers to be able to deliver the training to a wider group of SMS personnel in Ukraine.

The State Migration Service of Ukraine acts on the principles of respect for human rights, equality of opportunities and treatment. Employees of the Service’s territorial bodies will use knowledge and skills acquired during the ILO and UNHCR training workshops in their daily practical work with the refugees and asylum seekers in Ukraine.”
- Mr. Petro Synyavskiy, Director of the Department on Foreigners and Stateless People of the State Migration Service of Ukraine.

Feedback of participants of training
“There is a need in more such trainings for public servants
I understood that I know so little about HIV.
I want to protect people living with HIV.”
I want to take a free HIV test."




A sample workplace policy assuring non- discrimination developed

Following the ILO Policy Brief on COVID-19 and the World of Work: A Focus on people living with HIV and the UNHCR LGBTIQ glossary, a sample non-discriminatory workplace policy was drafted for use at the regional departments of SMS. In addition, a set of awareness materials were developed and shared with all regional departments.

A short video capturing the key moments and messages of on-line training was also produced and shared with the State Migration Service.

Results

The project helped the SMS introducing new practices in the procedures of refugee’s status determination for applicants representing LGBT community including those living with HIV.

Awareness raising on HIV/TB helped employees of the State Migration Service in implementing non-discriminatory practices while working with asylum seekers regardless their real or perceived HIV status.

Lessons learnt

- Employees of the State Migration Service welcomed this initiative, despite the challenges of online training.
- Engaging the management of SMS was found extremely useful in the successful implementation of the project, particularly concerning the development of a sample non-discrimination policy.
- Collaboration between UNHCR and ILO played a key role with each organizing bringing its expertize for the benefit of SMS.

Next Steps

UNHCR and ILO will continue to strengthen the capacity of the SMS and will facilitate the partnership of SMS with local NGOs so that refugees and asylum seeks could access health services including HIV testing, screening, and treatment.

UNHCR and ILO have decided to explore possibilities to extend similar support to departments working with stateless people – some 35704 including those at the risk of statelessness, as of 30 June 2020- in Ukraine.