Responding to the news that the UN has verified that Russian soldiers have subjected Ukrainian civilians to a rights-abusing process known as “filtration”, a practice independently verified by Amnesty International as deeply abusive and humiliating, Marie Struthers, Amnesty’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:
“The abusive and humiliating process known as ‘filtration’ is a shocking violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. Our research shows that many displaced Ukrainians end up inside Russia or Russia-occupied territories involuntarily, even if they are not physically forced to move. Deportation and forcible transfer of civilians in occupied territory are prohibited by international humanitarian law and can constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity. Putting these forcibly displaced civilians through the abuses of ‘filtration’ is both cynical and cruel.
“We are also concerned for vulnerable groups, including unaccompanied, separated, or orphaned children, older people, and people with disabilities, some of whom were prevented from fleeing towards Ukrainian-controlled territory by Russian soldiers. Many found themselves unable to leave Russia or Russian-occupied areas once transferred to such locations.”
“The Russian authorities must urgently allow the international community to access and monitor temporary placement shelters for Ukrainian civilians and evacuation procedures for civilians trapped in the conflict. They must also immediately ensure that Ukrainian civilians are able to safely leave warzones and enter Ukrainian-controlled territories. Those in Russia must be able to access resources that enable them to leave the country for Ukraine or a third country.”
Amnesty International has documented several cases of Russian soldiers abusing detained Ukrainian civilians going through the ‘filtration’ procedures while exiting the warzone or crossing the border into or out of Russia.
Some unaccompanied, separated, and orphaned children, as well as civilians from Mariupol-based institutions that care for older people and people with disabilities, were forcibly transferred to Donetsk. Some of the children and civilians were in the process of being evacuated to Ukrainian-controlled areas at the time.
Older people in particular are at a greater risk of getting trapped in Russian-controlled areas or in Russia, due to a lack of information, funds and mobility issues.
There appear to be no systems in place to facilitate the return of older people or people with disabilities from Russia or Russian-occupied territories to territories controlled by the government of Ukraine.