Human rights activists launch a humanitarian mission in Ukraine
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" initiated a humanitarian mission in Ukraine. Its main goal is to help Ukrainian immigrants from the conflict zone, 100,000 of whom are living in Kharkiv alone.
It is intended to start the work in Kharkiv. Later, the work of the mission will cover Chernihiv, Lviv, Cherkasy and Odesa. The coordinator of the campaign “Human Rights Humanitarian Mission in Ukraine” Zmitser Salauyou shared his expectations about the mission.
- How did you get the idea of creating this mission?
Z.S.: At first, it came to our Chairman, Ales Bialiatski, who, being vice-president of FIDH, conducts international human rights activities. It was he who inspired us. Later we came to the thought that we need to hold internships for members of our branches in the Ukraine, and then all this transformed in the idea of the Human Rights Humanitarian Mission with the aim of voluntary assistance to the human rights organizations in Ukraine who deal with the problem of refugees who suffered from the armed conflict which is going on in the east of the Ukraine.
- What are the Ukrainian organizations you're considering or have already started cooperation with?
Z.S.: A permanent mission, lasting two months, will begin in Kharkiv. Our volunteers will change every two weeks. We will work at the organization “Station Kharkiv”, which specializes in helping displaced persons. They accumulate information on what people can help with, distribute humanitarian aid, help with employment information, with accommodation, food and solve other pressing issues of immigrants. This will be the core of our activities. Moreover, we intend to visit the Ukrainian regions for 5-7 days, depending on our possibilities. In particular, we have just received an answer from Lviv, where Center SIM («Center Seven») is situated. They answered that they also could cooperate with us by employing us as volunteers for working in public reception rooms and giving free judicial advise. They also conduct many information campaigns and organize film views on human rights, and are directly involved in humanitarian aid to the displaced.
- When do you plan to begin the work of the mission?
Z. S.: The Mission will actually begin on June 4 in Kharkiv. The schedule of volunteers' work has been developed: each one will work for two weeks. Not all people will arrive and depart simultaneously, so that we could always have somebody who has already worked there for a week and can convey the received experience to the newcomer. Moreover, we intend to maintain the mission's diary in FB and make reports about various interesting cases and report about peoples' problems in order to increase the understanding of what is going on there. All of us see what is shown on the Russian TV channels and the Belarusian TV, but this information hardly reflects the reality. Instead, myths are born and rumours are spread among the people. We will try to show everything as it is, i.e. speak about the problems of the displaced, what they are doing, whether they intend to return to their places of residence, how do they get adapted, how they are treated by the locals and how they live in general.
- What will the volunteers do?
Z. S. We are ready to cooperate in any direction where we are needed. We will assist in the paperwork, helping migrants to write documents and requests for support. We will also create a database of those who can help, because the organization has large accounts in Facebook and other social networking websites where they accumulate information which needs to be systematized. One also needs to make telephone calls to the people and do the paperwork. Moreover, we will tie contacts with other Ukrainian human rights organizations in order to continue the cooperation and raise it to the international level, make the work more open and use the Ukrainian experience in our everyday activities as well.
- Is it the first attempt to make such a mission, or has "Viasna" been previously involved in such projects?
Z. S.: This is the first time we are holding a systemic humanitarian mission. However, previously our staff have participated in many missions as volunteers. For instance, lawyer Nasta Loika got to “Station Kharkiv” a year ago and worked there some time as a volunteer. It is thanks to her contacts that we now have the agreement with “Station Kharkiv” that they will accept our volunteers. They know us and we intend to develop these relations. In general, “Viasna” has been involved in volunteer activities for a long time already. Ales Bialiatski has participated in many missions as vice-President of FIDH – in particular, in the Kirghiz city of Osh, a place of ethnic conflict. This was an international monitoring mission on the results of the conflict. That's why I believe that such missions are a very promising direction of work, the more that the Ukraine is similar to Belarus in many respects.
- How will you spread information about your activities?
Z.S.: The mission diary will be updated on everyday basis and we will wrte about what we have done, what we have seen and describe the general situation. This information will be published at social networking websites. We will also report about the most interesting cases to the editors of the “Viasna” website. There is no sense in doing something secretly and keeping silent about it, and it is reasonable to tell the truth as it is and share one's own experience. We will also have a paper report, but the most important part is our assistance to the people, gaining valuable experience, tying contacts and providing everyday information for the informational space of Belarus. We will try to make such information effective, interesting and useful.
If everything is good, in the future we would like to make our mission permanent and invite other human rights organization to it, in order to make it a joint humanitarian mission of the Belarusian human rights defenders.