(Kyiv, 1 June 2020). Across the world, quarantines and restrictions on movement have been imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19. These measures, which are necessary to contain the pandemic and to save lives, must also allow some exceptions for individuals facing extraordinary emergency situations.

In eastern Ukraine, the closure of all entry-exit crossing points since late March has meant that hundreds of people who are potentially facing such exceptional situations have been unable to systematically be heard or assisted.

The United Nations and humanitarian actors acknowledge efforts to implement some exemptions to allow individuals to cross the ‘contact line’ to reunite with their families in need of care, to seek urgent medical treatment, to attend funerals of their loved ones, among other exceptional reasons. However, application of such exceptions has been uneven and unpredictable.

We are concerned that civilians with valid emergency reasons have not been granted permission to cross the ‘contact line.’

As the number of Ukrainian citizens desperate to cross the ‘contact line’ is already high and continues to grow daily, I urge all relevant actors to introduce a transparent and effective vetting mechanism to consider such cases and to facilitate and expedite crossing permissions on emergency grounds while COVID-19-related restrictions remain in place. The introduction of clear and well-defined criteria is critical to serve those with legitimate reasons to be granted exception to cross the ‘contact line.’

In a spirit of shared humanity, we must come together to protect and support the vulnerable Ukrainian citizens with sometimes life-critical reasons to cross the ‘contact line.’ Decisive action is required to facilitate the systematic application of exemptions for crossing the ‘contact line’ to alleviate the further suffering of the conflict-weary people of eastern Ukraine.

For further information, please contact:

Lizaveta Zhuk, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Ukraine: lizaveta.zhuk@un.org, tel. +380 50 344 16 94