the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), specialized in monitoring the international humanitarian situation, warned of the “devastating” consequences of the war in Ukraine for the children populationespecially for children who were interned in Ukrainian state institutions in areas that have ended up being taken over by Russia during the invasion, with the consequent forced deportation of minors to Russian territory.
According to Ukrainian government figures collected by the NGO, just before the Russian invasion there were approximately 105,000 children in Ukrainian residential institutions, almost half of them disabled, according to the UN. After the invasion, a hundred of these institutions, which housed approximately 32,000 minorsended up under full or partial Russian control.
In summary, “Ukrainian activists and lawyers indicate that at least several thousand of those children have ended up deported by force to Russia or other territories it occupies”.
It should be remembered that the parliament of russia changed the laws in May 2022 to allow authorities to grant Russian nationality to Ukrainian children, making it easier for them to be taken into custody and adopted by Russian families in Russia. Russian officials themselves acknowledge that Hundreds of Ukrainian children have been “adopted” from the beginning of the war.
At that time, and in a joint statement, Human Rights Watch and 42 other organizations condemned these “forced transfers and adoptions” and asked Russia to allow access to officials from the United Nations and other agencies to identify these children, ensure their well-being and facilitate their return to Ukraine.
The situation of children interned in Ukraine was already quite serious before the war, as the Ukrainian government itself has recognized.
In fact, nine out of ten children hospitalized in Ukraine have parents with full authority who preferred to hand over their children to these institutions for lack of money to take care of them at home. The Ukrainian government has also recognized, the NGO cites, that “internment in the country was inherently harmful to children.”
Ukraine has been failing to resolve this crisis since 2005. All attempts at reform have failed and the Ukrainian president, Volodimir Zelenskypromised to address plans for child extrication in his bid to join the European Union.
The situation is not much better in the case of children who manage to escape Ukraine only to end up entangled in it bureaucratic chaos that awaits them abroad.
“When children were evacuated abroad from the institutions in which they lived, some ended up without being registered due to the chaotic exodus of refugees during the first weeks of the war”, recalls the NGO.
Ukraine insists that children evacuated from boarding schools should stay together abroad, raising logistical problems for countries with more developed early childhood education policies.
In Polandwhere laws prohibit boarding schools from housing more than 14 children in order to avoid overcrowding and focus as much as possible on the development of the little ones, volunteers had to restore former orphanages to accommodate displaced Ukrainian children.
“This brutal war has clearly demonstrated the need to put an end to the dangers faced by children in hospitals,” recalls HRW’s deputy director for Children’s Rights, bill van esveld.
“The return of children who were illegally taken by Russian forces must be an international priority, but Ukraine and its allies can and must ensure that all children in Ukraine enjoy their rights to live in families, not institutions,” he warned. .
(With information from Europa Press)
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