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Responding to Displacement in Ukraine


 

Recent estimates suggest that 2.9 million people have already been forced to leave Ukraine in the few weeks since the Russian government launched a full-scale invasion, and over 1.8 million people have been displaced internally within the country, both recently and in previous years.

There has been a strong public response both locally and internationally, with many of us sharing feelings of collective grief over the human suffering involved. We understand many of our supporters want to know what they can do to help, and whether SolidariTee is coordinating any specific responses.

We have considered the situation very carefully, and at this time have decided not to open applications for an emergency grant. We wanted to share our thought processes as well as the information we have available to us, both for the purposes of transparency and so that each person is able to make their own decisions about how they personally can best provide support.


 


How are humanitarian responses planned?


One of the major reasons for our decision is that we believe, with any humanitarian or disaster response, in providing only forms of aid that are effective, empowering, and that we are best placed to provide.

Given the large scale of humanitarian need right now, we will consider a few of these in turn below and how our work is placed relative to these:


 

Immediate Aid

At the moment, there has been an enormous rush of support in the form of items such as blankets and clothing. Donating items in-kind from countries that do not neighbour Ukraine can often clog up the few transport routes available, and those on the move may be unable to carry such items. This makes it incredibly difficult for this type of aid to reach those who need it unless coordinated on the international level, and donations from the general public often cannot be made use of.

Secondly, this type of aid is already being covered by many other groups, and since SolidariTee has always specialised in more long-term forms of aid, we are not the group with the most capacity to coordinate such a response.

Finally, we need to consider the unintended consequences of such support - for example, local markets may suffer if enormous quantities of items are imported as opposed to supporting local businesses by sourcing such items within the region.


 

Legal Aid

Legal aid within the asylum system, and related services such as translation, interpretation, and psychological support, are the types of aid which SolidariTee has the greatest expertise in.

We already support NGOs providing information and protection services within the Western Balkans, and organisations such as MIT who provide freely accessible information to refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in vulnerable situations via social media and phone hotlines. Our legal aid NGOs in Greece not only provide direct support to individuals, but also conduct what is known as advocacy and strategic litigation, to tackle the procedural injustices and barriers at the European and international level. The unfortunate reality is that many of these NGOs may, in due course, find themselves supporting those who are currently on journeys in search of safety across Europe.

However, it must also be noted that some of the rights granted to people under the UN Refugee Convention such as the ability to reside in the host country and the right to work are more easily accessible to many of the people fleeing Ukraine than those fleeing persecution in countries like Syria, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Somalia, to name a few examples of countries from which large numbers of refugees originate.


Funding has already been withdrawn by several big donors for legal aid services in Greece and several other countries, as media and political attention shifts elsewhere, and humanitarian actors in crises which have been ongoing for many years in other countries have already lost funding as a result of the emergency response in Ukraine.

In many ways, we view it as our job as SolidariTee to stay stable and dependable, such that we are always ready to advocate for anyone displaced from their home against their will, and to build the capacity of the organisations who are able to fill this gap in access to rights.


 

Refugee rights, racism, and intersectional forms of oppression


The other topic we wanted to address, and undoubtedly an elephant in the room when discussions relating to forcible displacement takes place, is the influence of racism and xenophobia in experiences of migration. We will be circulating a separate newsletter dedicated to specifically this topic soon, as we believe it deserves the space to be addressed on its own. Ukrainian civilians deserve support during this dangerous conflict, as do all forcibly displaced people – many of whom have been misrepresented and demonised in Western media for years.

Solidarity can be neither selective nor discriminatory. No matter their country of origin, people forced to flee their homes deserve safety, dignity, and the support of the international community.

We have seen that the individuals caught in the crossfires of countless other crises have been left to fend for themselves after the media moves onto other more ‘newsworthy’ stories. We will continue striving to unite our community in support of humanitarian response well after the media storm dies down, be that in Ukraine or any other country. On our part, we will continue to support long-term, sustainable, impactful aid in the form of small NGOs that we have fully researched, and will continue to raise awareness of the tragedies in Ukraine, as well as those crises receiving less media attention, through our social media and outreach activities.


 

The below text has been taken from a mailing list which was sent to subscribers, but we felt that it was important that this statement was also made publicly available to the wider SolidariTee community. If you have any questions, either about the situation in Ukraine or about SolidariTee’s grant-giving, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via trustees@solidaritee.org.uk and we will be sure to answer and/or to signpost you to other resources.


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