Ukrainian refugees: 75 days of peaceful coexistence in Moldova during war in their homeland. IPN debate

There are a number of reasons for examining the situation to see if the refugees – Ukrainian guests – get along with their hosts in Moldova. This area is both wide and important and has enormous potential for influencing the internal situation in the Republic of Moldova and regional situation that is extremity destabilized owing to the Russo-Ukraine war. In this regard, it is enough to remember that at the start of the massive inflow of refugees from the neighboring country, a number of serious attempts to bring the refugees and the host communities at odds were seen and not only in the Republic of Moldova. The subject was discussed by the experts invited to IPN’s public debate “Ukrainian refugees: 75 days of peaceful coexistence in Moldova during war in their homeland”.

Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, said that after the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine declared their Independence, the two states signed over 20 bilateral documents in different areas. The most important document is the Treaty of Good Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation between the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine of October 23, 1992. “If we refer to the main international documents that regulate the current situation concerning refugees, we can mention the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. This is a fundamental document of international humanitarian law, which refers to the refugees. The Republic of Moldova subscribed to the Convention by the law of November 23, 2001,” explained Igor Boțan.

According to the expert, the Convention provides that the status of refugee is accorded to a person who has lost the protection of their state of origin due to external aggression, occupation, domination or events that seriously disrupted public order in the country of origin that this had to leave. “The Convention defines the legal regime of refugees, including the rights and obligations of the refugees in relation to the countries that host them. The refugees enjoy a series of rights, such as the right to work, the right to education, the right to go to court, etc. The refugee citizens are to be integrated into the country that hosts them and this is an international obligation of our country,” stated Igor Boțan.

Asylum procedure protection officer Ion Bambuleac, of the Lawyers’ Law Center, considers the notion of refugee that is widely used in Moldova is not fully accurate. “A refugee is the person who asked for asylum. In reality, all the persons who find refuge after fleeing from the war are generically called refugees. The statistical data are compiled depending on these notions. For example, there are over 6,000 applications for asylum. But the number of people who came to the Republic of Moldova is much higher and is not even accurate, being estimated at several hundred thousands,” he noted.

“The Republic of Moldova assumed the biggest humanitarian task in Europe. I cannot tell you now how many refugees are there in general. If we speak about the asylum procedures and system, this is the largest figure in the history of the Republic of Moldova and it is a task with which the Republic of Moldova copes,” stated Ion Bambuleac.

Roman Russu, administrator of the Ukrainian refugee placement center situated on Drumul Viilor St in Chisinau, said that most of the refugees are families consisting of mother, grandmother and children and are primarily from the southern regions of Ukraine, which are closer to the Republic of Moldova – Odessa, Kherson etc. Those who come to Moldova from further regions usually come to relatives who shelter them.

“At our center, the people stay on a temporary basis and then most of them, as far as we know, go to other countries, to member states of the European Union. Those who remain here stay because Moldova is closer to their homeland, Ukraine, and also because most of them understand and speak Russian. They are hopeful the war will end soon and they will be able to return home,” stated Roman Russu.

Kirill Prihodko, a refugee and communication manager of the Ukrainian refugee placement center from Drumul Viilor St, said it is very hard not to leave the country and  not to become a refugee when  you have to stay in basements to protect yourself from shelling. “No one believed in an open and large-scale military aggression against Ukraine. We heard a lot about this during eight years, but we, the Ukrainians, didn’t take it seriously despite the warnings. When it happens and when you wake up at 5:00am owing to air attacks, you no longer have time to decide,” said the young man.

According to him, the Ukrainians had to flee their own country and to seek the refugee status. Even if this is not the first solution to which they think, about 5 million Ukrainians already had to become refugees against their will. Form his own experience, he can say that he took the decision swiftly as he needed to protect his mother and sister. The decision was in favor of safety, not of other reasons. Given his knowledge, he can be more useful to Ukraine from abroad than when staying in basements.

“Why Moldova? Many Ukrainians would respond, because Moldova is closer to home and many of them want to return home as swiftly as possible, hoping that the war will end,” said Kirill Prihodko.

The public debate titled “Ukrainian refugees: 75 days of peaceful coexistence in Moldova during war in their homeland” was the 243rd installment of IPN’s project “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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