Russia must stop forcibly transferring children from Ukraine orphanages, says Human Rights Watch
A house after shelling in Donetsk Oblast (Photo:Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Serhii Nuzhnenko)
Russia’s war against Ukraine has led to traumatic and devastating consequences for children in residential institutions, including forcible transfers to Russia and separation from their families, Human Rights Watch reported on March 13.
“Children sent to Russia should urgently be brought home, and Ukraine should urgently map the whereabouts of all children from institutions and ensure their well-being,” the report said.
Human Rights Watch’s 55-page report “We must provide for the family, not rebuild orphanages” documents risks for children from institutions in areas directly affected by the war, as well as for those evacuated to other areas of Ukraine or to European countries.
According to government data, before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, Ukraine housed more than 105,000 children in residential institutions, the highest figure in Europe after Russia.
According to UNICEF, almost half of them were children with disabilities.
“Russia bears responsibility for the crisis facing these children, but the war adds to the urgency for Ukraine, with support from foreign governments and humanitarian agencies, to stop institutionalizing children and expand family – and community-based care,” the report said.
According to Bill Van Esveld, deputy director of children’s rights at Human Rights Watch, Ukrainian children who were placed in Soviet-era institutions now face enormous risks because of the war.
“There needs to be a concerted international effort to identify and return children who were deported to Russia, and Ukraine and its allies should ensure that all children who were or remain institutionalized are identified and provided with support to live with their families and in communities,” he said.
Esveld said children should be supported to live with their families and communities.
Human Rights Watch visited 12 children’s institutions in Lviv Oblast and three more in Lodz (Poland), where Ukrainian children and staff were evacuated from areas directly affected by hostilities. Ukrainian and Polish officials and representatives of civil society were also interviewed.
The organization documented Russia’s forcible transfer of children from Ukrainian residential institutions to the Russian Federation or to temporarily occupied territories.
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