Updated at 18:07,08-09-2017

About 150,000 Ukrainians said to have arrived in Belarus in two years

By Syarhey Karalevich, BelaPAN

About 150,000 citizens of Ukraine have arrived in Belarus in the last two years and more than 45,000 of them have obtained the status of permanent of temporary residents, Alyaksey Byahun, head of the interior ministry’s Citizenship and Migration Department, told reporters in Minsk on Thursday before the start of an international conference.

The TAIEX ENP East Regional Workshop on Asylum Procedures has brought together experts from Belgium, Germany, Latvia, Poland, and Romania, as well as representatives of the European Union, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and concerned agencies in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. The event was organized within the framework of the European Commission’s Technical Assistance and Information Exchange (TAIEX) program for the countries covered by the EU`s European Neighborhood Policy (ENP).

Belarus had received about 160 applications for refugee status every year before 2013, Mr. Byahun said. However, the conflict in Ukraine caused an exodus of refugees from that country, especially its southeastern provinces, he said. Belarus has already considered more than 1,300 applications for refugee status or subsidiary protection by Ukrainian citizens, he said.

More than 1,100 Ukrainians from the conflict zone have obtained subsidiary protection in Belarus to date, Mr. Byahun said. Some of the Ukrainians are granted permission to work, others are granted temporary or permanent residence permits, and still others apply for Belarusian citizenship, he said.

Most of the citizens of Ukraine who have been denied refugee status or subsidiary protection have been rejected are draft-age men from “peaceful” provinces whose stated reason for filing applications is their reluctance to be called up for military service, Mr. Byahun said.

He noted that the inflow of refugees from Ukraine has subsided since the end of heavy fighting in its conflict zone.