Refugees in Moldova need more integration assistance

CHISINAU, 30th May 2012 – Refugees in the Republic of Moldova want to work legally and become self-sufficient but seek more involvement on the part of government agencies and the UN to promote their local integration, according to a study released by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Refugees flee their homelands due to persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, political opinion or serious upheaval like war. Once they find protection in a foreign country they often may face problems obtaining assistance.
UNHCR’s survey of refugees, beneficiaries of humanitarian protection (BHPs) and stateless persons, entitled “2011 Participatory Assessment Report: How refugees, BHPs, and stateless persons experience life in Moldova” found that many persons who seek protection in the Republic of Moldova say they have serious problems finding jobs, adequate housing, getting their foreign diplomas recognized and asserting other human rights like obtaining travel documents and citizenship.
Moldova stands out amongst most European countries by not only granting refugees access to legal employment, but by also giving asylum seekers the right to legally work upon approval of the Bureau for Migration and Asylum of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. But this positive act on the part of the government is little understood by prospective employers.
There are more than 2,250 persons under UNHCR’s mandate in the Republic of Moldova, of whom more than 2,000 are stateless persons and the rest are refugees, beneficiaries of humanitarian protection and asylum-seekers.
UNHCR’s beneficiaries appealed for greater support in obtaining employment and further efforts to overcome lingering discrimination so that they might achieve self-reliance. In the absence of government aid, refugees called on UNHCR to continue providing targeted housing assistance aimed at improving the living conditions of carefully selected vulnerable refugees.
“Adequate and affordable housing is a major challenge facing all residents of Moldova, especially refugees and asylum seekers who have no family or other support networks, aside from any assistance they may receive from us,” said Peter Kessler, UNHCR representative to Moldova.
Refugees who participated in the study said that they would like to be considered for social housing provided by the government.
“Refugees also said the government should address the “propiska”-like registration system which causes many landlords to deny refugee formal leases, which leaves some refugees and Moldovan citizens alike sometimes unable to register at their homes and obtain access to health care and other social services,” UNHCR’s Kessler said.
Refugees from Africa who were participated in the study raised concerns about racial discrimination, although all those interviewed declared that the level of xenophobia and discrimination in the Republic of Moldova has considerably improved over the last 15 years.  However, they called on UNHCR and the government to conduct more activities aimed at raising awareness amongst people regarding the reasons why persons seek asylum in Moldova.
Participants in the annual study called on Moldova to promptly honor its commitments made in 2002 when it acceded to the Refugee Convention and issue Convention Travel Documents, which allow their holders to apply for visas to travel abroad. Recognized refugees currently must wait more than eight years to apply for citizenship before applying for a passport. The Republic of Moldova has assured UNHCR that it will address the lack of Convention Travel Documents this year.
Stateless persons in Moldova mainly live in the Transnistrian region. They called on the government and UNHCR to do more to raise awareness about statelessness and to make the naturalization procedure less bureaucratic.
Earlier this year Moldova agreed to implement the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness as well an important law establishing a statelessness determination procedure that should help resolve the lingering problem of statelessness.
The survey results were obtained by an assessment team consisting of the representatives of UNHCR and implementing partners Ave Copiii, the Charity Center for Refugees and the Law Center of Advocates. The agencies undertook participatory observations/home visits, as well as individual, semi-structured meetings and focus group discussions with UNHCR’s persons of concern residing in various parts of Moldova, including the Transnistrian segment.
For more information concerning the report and the recommendations, interested persons are encouraged to address UNHCR Representation in the Republic of Moldova:
For additional information you may contact UNHCR Representation in Moldova
68, A. Mateevici str., MD-2009
Tel. 27 18 53, 27 08 65 fax: 27 19 53, e-mail: mdach@unchr.org
You may also wish to visit the websites www.unhcr.org and www.unhcr.org.md