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Belarusians living in Ukraine struggle with local red tape
How can Belaruian extend a residence permit in Ukraine? / collage by Ulad Rubanau, Euroradio
"Despite all the statements, the problem of legal residence of Belarusians in Ukraine is still relevant today," Uladzimir Zhbankou, head of the legal assistance service of the Free Belarus Center, told Euroradio.
On May 12th, the head of the State Migration Service of Ukraine Natalia Naumenko announced that after a long pause connected with the war, the country would resume issuing permanent and temporary residence permits to citizens of Belarus.
This statement was particularly welcomed by the Belarusians who, fleeing repression in their homeland, had left for Ukraine. They found or even bought housing, got jobs, and sent their children to school. And after the Kremlin attack, they decided to stay and wait for victory together with the Ukrainians.
Uladzimir Zhbankou said that when people's residence permits expired or if they expired after February 24 (at that time they said "wait, everything will be fine"), they came to the migration service and faced problems again:
"A person is referred to the Illegal Migration Department, where they have a protocol drawn up on them. There, they also write out a resolution about violating the terms of legal stay, impose a fine, and put a big square stamp on it, where it is written that the person has to return somewhere (it is not clear where), and there's also a date. The term for return is short -- about one calendar week. Seeing such a surprise, people are lost: the term is small, a week. It is very difficult to find time to appeal. At the same time, the Migration Service often says that a person needs to leave the country, come back, renew the duration of stay, and everything will be fine again. To the reasonable remark "They may not let me back," they say that it's up to the border guards, and the service itself has no claims to this person.
"At the border, they told me that they would let me out, but not let me back in"
Ina Zaitsava, a Belarusian woman remembered from the protests in 2020, faced the problem of legalization. The woman went out on peaceful marches wearing a WRW bride's dress.
Faced with lawlessness in Belarus, she moved to Ukraine with her husband and children. The family bought a house and slowly began to live their lives. Ina is totally against the war and actively writes about it in all of her social feeds, believing that it helps others fight Putin's propaganda in the information field.
"That's it, I can't legally live in Ukraine because my temporary residence permit has expired," Ina laments. "However, I tried to comply with the law: I paid a fine of $150 because I lost my document. I was told that I had seven days to leave the territory of Ukraine, then come back and make a new document. I went to the border with Moldova, showed them my documents, explained that I had a house here, two children, and in general, I was a journalist, trying to help in some way, and that I was a good person. At the border, they told me that they would let me out, but not let me back in, because they have an order: citizens of Russia and Belarus are not allowed in under any circumstances, unless, of course, you are ready to die for Ukraine or you have a Ukrainian husband or Ukrainian children here. So I turned around and have been an illegal immigrant since June 17.
It seems very unfair to me because I know for a fact that there are more and more people joining the Kastus Kalinouski's regiment. It turns out that you are welcome to die for Ukraine, but not to live there. It gives me the creeps".
What to do if you are told to leave in seven days?
According to the head of the legal aid service Free Belarus Center, today it is impossible to name the exact number of Belarusians who faced the problem of legalization in Ukraine. To do it, one must at least day and night watch the departments for fighting illegal migrants all over the country. Telling about his practice, the lawyer tells us about dozens of such cases. What to do?
"First, Ukrainians themselves need to comply with the migration legislation in force in the country, because we have not seen any norm prescribing that a person must leave so quickly and then they may not let him in yet," Uladzimir Zhbankou notes. "If you have already been informed that you have to leave, I remind you that there is a special section on the website of the Migration Service, where you can write an appeal, at least to document this fact. Time is short, but you have to try to appeal this decision while in the country. Then you can appeal to the migration authorities and, perhaps, the judicial authorities. Do not keep silent about your problem, seek specialist advice to save time".
Representative of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Valer Kavaleuski, recently met with the adviser of the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Anton Gerashchenko in Kyiv to discuss the temporary residence permits for Belarusians.
After the meeting, Tsikhanouskaya's office reported that the parties found an understanding of the need to solve this problem.