The return of Ukrainian children deported by Russia was discussed in The Hague

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On June 19, The Hague held a roundtable discussion on the search for missing children from Ukraine, organised by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). The event was dedicated to strengthening Ukraine’s strategic vision in the search for tens of thousands of missing persons, including children who were illegally deported to Russia. The moderator of one of the panels of the event was the advocacy manager of Human Rights Centre ZMINA, Alena Lunova. The roundtable was attended by representatives of the Ukrainian government and civil society, as well as representatives of the international community.

According to the organisers, this roundtable is part of a series of events organised by ICMP in 2024 in Kyiv, Warsaw and other capitals to discuss effective strategies for finding those who went missing during Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“Our panel is dedicated to the future – what we will do as a state to identify and return our children who have disappeared or been deported by Russia”, said Alena Lunova.

According to Daria Herasymchuk, the Advisor – Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights and Child Rehabilitation, pre-trial investigations are currently being carried out in 372 criminal proceedings on the disappearance of children during the war. In addition, the pre-trial investigation authorities are checking the facts of the forced deportation of more than 19,500 children aged nine months to 18 years.

Artur Dobroserdov, the Commissioner for Persons Missing in Special Circumstances since March 2024, believes that the main work on the return of children will be possible after the war is over, and that it is important to collect as much information as possible about missing or deported children:

“Over time, there is less and less information. Children who are in Russia – all their identification data is being changed, so it will be difficult for us to find them. So now we need to constantly collect and check information about our children”.

Maksym Maksymov, the Head of Projects at Bring the Kids Back, an initiative of the President of Ukraine, which was launched to coordinate the efforts of Ukrainian government agencies, partner countries and international organisations, believes that it will be difficult for Ukraine to return children without international support. Therefore, he says, representatives of the state, the public sector and international partners should synchronise and expand their efforts. 

Paul Wise, Richard E. Behrman Professor of Child Health and Society and Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology and Developmental Medicine, and Health Policy at Stanford University, commented that separating children and parents in the context of migration policy is not acceptable, as it is child abuse. In his opinion, Ukraine should also involve structures that are already highly trusted by society and parents, such as the National Health Service of Ukraine and doctors, in the identification of abducted children.

Alena Lunova and Paul Wise

For reference: ICMP is an intergovernmental organisation with headquarters in The Hague, whose mandate is to ensure cooperation between governments and other stakeholders in the search for persons missing as a result of war, human rights violations and other circumstances.

You can watch the video from the event in Ukrainian here.