|Population||UN Population Division (as of 2016)|
|Number of IDPs (Conflict and violence)||IDMC (as of 2016)|
|New displacements (Conflict and violence)||IDMC (as of 2016)|
|New displacements (Disasters)||IDMC (as of 2016)|
|Refugees||UNHCR (as of 2016)|
|Displacement type||New Displacement (Flow)||IDPs (Stock)|
|Geographical disaggregation||Admin 2 or more||Admin 2 or more|
|Frequency of reporting||More than once a month||More than once a month|
|Disaggregation on sex||No||No|
|Disaggregation on age||No||No|
|Data triangulation||No triangulation||No triangulation|
|Data on settlement elsewhere||No||No|
|Data on returns||No||No|
|Data on local integration||No||No|
|Data on deaths||No||No|
|Data on births||No||No|
IDMC bases its estimate on data provided by the Ukrainian Ministry of Social Policy, which maintains a comprehensive database with support from UNHCR and reports at regular intervals on displacement triggered in particular by the conflict in the eastern regions of the country.Download extended figures analysis (PDF, 31 KB)
The current internal displacement crisis in Ukraine arose from armed conflict triggered in March 2014 by Russia’s annexation of Crimea, an autonomous republic of Ukraine, and the subsequent proclamations of independence by the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine. This conflict is the latest episode of Russian assertiveness in the post-Soviet space and in an increasingly competitive and adversarial relationship between Russia and the West.
Since the annexation, Ukraine has been fighting pro-Russian separatists in its eastern provinces, and over a million people have been internally displaced. With no clear prospects of conflict resolution or long-term planning, displacement is likely to be protracted. There is also a risk of repeated displacement if the security situation deteriorates or if IDPs’ access to supplies, local services and assistance continues to diminish.
Numerous factors have combined to cause displacement in Ukraine. Domestically, these include a complex political environment, government corruption, high levels of poverty and inequality, and a division within the polity and society about whether to align politically and economically with Russia or the West. Russia has also played a large part in the current situation, exerting economic and political pressure on Ukraine in an effort to gain primary influence over the country’s foreign policy orientation.
In November 2013, after the Ukrainian president refused to sign a trade and cooperation agreement with the European Union and instead opted for an economic deal with Russia, demonstrations deteriorated into violence in the capital city of Kiev and other parts of Ukraine. Protesters saw closer European integration as the answer to the poor economic and political situation in the country. Known as EuroMaidan, the demonstrations became increasingly violent and continued into February 2014, when the president fled Ukraine and the opposition took power.
Shortly thereafter, Russian forces appeared in Ukraine’s autonomous republic of Crimea, seized control over key military and government buildings, and installed pro-Russian leadership. In March 2014, Russia unilaterally annexed Crimea, proclaiming it a subject of the Russian Federation. Many people fled before the referendum and after Russia declared the annexation out of fear or because of threats, intimidation or discrimination based on their ethnicity or political opinions.
Russia’s assertive behaviour has been explained by the need to divert attention from its domestic failures, a search for security and status to counterbalance the influence of the West, and ambitions to rebuild an empire within the former Soviet space. The lack of checks and balances in Russia that would prevent the initiation of war and the country’s tendency to use violent means to resolve conflicts with opponents both domestically and internationally may also explain Russia’s approach to Ukraine.
Following the declared split of Crimea from Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists seized control of areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine and declared independence from the rest of the country. Ukraine responded with military force, and despite several ceasefire agreements, hostilities have continued ever since. Since 2014, Ukraine has lacked effective control over those areas, which are now the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic”. The resulting insecurity, violence, human rights violations and conflict have forced people to flee, as has the lack of access to adequate housing, livelihoods, benefits, social services, medical care and education.
The vast majority of displaced people have fled within Ukraine, though many have fled across the border to Russia. There is a gap in information on the location, movements and accommodation of people displaced within non-government-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
In areas controlled by the Ukrainian government, most registered IDPs are in urban centres in eastern Ukraine. Some have moved on from the areas they registered in, but their onward movements have not been tracked. Most fled the fighting in the east and were displaced as early as 2014. A small number of people fled Crimea in 2014 before the conflict in the east began. The majority of those IDPs were members of the Muslim Crimean Tatar minority.
In the east, many men stayed in conflict areas to take care of family property and continue working. Many older people and others with limited mobility also stayed because they could not physically endure a long journey. As a result, mostly women and children fled at the beginning, leading to family separation and increased vulnerability for women, children and the older people left behind.
Regional administrations in Ukraine have provided IDPs with collective accommodation such as summer camp facilities, hotels, dormitories and communal buildings free of charge. IDPs also live with relatives and friends, in accommodation offered by host communities or in rented housing. Accommodation is not always suitable for people with disabilities and is sometimes far away from schools.
Many IDPs have temporarily returned to their homes to collect household items and to check on their property. Others return because they can no longer afford to live in areas controlled by the government. People returning to or fleeing from areas not controlled by the government must pass checkpoints, where they have been harassed and robbed.
Some civilians who have registered as IDPs only for the purpose of accessing social benefits in government-controlled areas, also known as “commuters,” pass through the checkpoints but reside in areas outside of the government’s control.
IDPs and others living along the contact line between areas controlled by the Ukrainian government and those outside of its control face chronic insecurity and limited access to water, electricity and medicine. Access to livelihoods and shelter solutions are inadequate, and some people have been forced to return from government-controlled to insecure areas, including places where they face active conflict, landmines and little assistance.
IDPs with Ukrainian citizenship who reside in areas not controlled by the government but who have lost or had their passports destroyed cannot cross the contact line, and obtaining a passport entails a complicated procedure. In government-controlled areas, IDPs with identity documents face difficulties and delays in getting social benefits and pension payments, for which residence verification and an IDP certificate are required and applications must be submitted in person. This is difficult for minor and juvenile children, and people displaced within a single settlement are not eligible.
IDPs in south and central Ukraine and in the eastern oblasts have struggled with high rents and the closure of collective centres. Their coping mechanisms and savings have been eroded, and they have limited possibilities to resolve their housing situations on their own. There are no government programmes to secure housing, nor are there effective mechanisms for assessment and compensation or restitution for uninhabitable property.
Other protection and assistance needs of IDPs in government-controlled areas include freedom of movement and protection across the contact line, registration of births, access to adequate housing, measures for long-term integration, and voting in local elections.
Displaced Roma are in a particularly vulnerable situation because Roma people generally lack national identification documents. Roma and other IDPs without documents are prevented from registering as IDPs, gaining formal employment, accessing medical assistance and officially renting an apartment. Their situation is worsened by discrimination on the part of host communities and authorities. There is also a gap in information on the needs of another minority group, the Crimean Tatar IDPs.
Government of Ukraine, Law on the Rights and Freedoms of IDPs, Number 1706-VII, 2014
IOM, National Monitoring System of the Situation with Internally Displaced Persons, 24 October 2016
UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs, Mission to Ukraine, 2014
UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine, 2017
UN Humanitarian Country Team, Humanitarian Needs Overview, November 2016