Formerly Abducted Ukrainian Children Meet with European Leaders at The Hague
· 19,546 children remain forcefully abducted by Russia, according to the Ukrainian state official portal “Children of War”
· Yermak: “Our goal is to completely stop the forceful deportation of our children to Russia and to take all necessary measures for their safe return home”
The Hague, Netherlands – 15 September 2023
Six Ukrainian children – who have returned from deportation or forcible displacement by Russia – met today with European officials in the Hague to raise awareness of children’s rights violations committed by Russia and to help establish international coalitions for the repatriation of the remaining abducted children. According to the reports by Ukrainian authorities (state portal “Children of War”), the number of deported or forcibly displaced children by Russia is now at 19,546.
The six children were accompanied by a Ukrainian delegation including Dmytro Lubinets, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights; Daria Herasymchuk, Advisor and Commissioner to the President of Ukraine for Child’s Rights and Children’s Rehabilitation; Oleksandr Karasevych, Ambassador of Ukraine in the Netherlands, and Mariam Lambert, co-founder of the ‘Orphans Feeding Foundation’ from the Netherlands.
The event was organized within the framework of the “Bring Kids Back UA” action plan approved by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and coordinated by the Chief of Staff and Head of Ukraine’s Presidential Office, Andriy Yermak. The event is called “Stolen Voices” and is supported by the ‘Orphans Feeding Foundation’.
Andriy Yermak, Chief of Staff and Head of Ukraine’s Presidential Office, said: “Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has led to massive violations of fundamental rights and an intensive expansion of unlawful deportation and abduction of our children. Our goal is to completely stop the forceful deportation of our children to Russia and to take all necessary measures for their safe return home. Ukraine needs the support of its allies and partners to bring each and every child back to their homeland. Today, it’s our Ukrainian children, tomorrow, it could be yours”.
As part of their mission, the Ukrainian delegation provided data and information on the forcible displacement of Ukrainian children by the Russian Federation, including the mechanics behind Russia’s international crime. The hosts of the Ukrainian delegation also heard the horrid stories of forceful deportation by the repatriated six children firsthand.
The meetings were hosted by Ms Hanke Bruins Slot, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and the Representatives of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Dutch Parliament.
Today, on Friday, 15 September 2023, the Ukrainian delegation will continue discussions with Catharina Rinzema, Member of the European Parliament and Registrar of the International Criminal Court.
“No one in the world has the right to destroy a peaceful and happy childhood. I remind you that only 386 children managed to be returned to Ukraine and more than 19,500 children are waiting for our help. There is an urgent need to respond jointly and effectively to this terrible situation”, said Daria Herasymchuk, Advisor and Commissioner to the President of Ukraine for Child’s Rights and Children’s Rehabilitation.
Dmytro Lubinets, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, stated: ‘We are in the process of developing a mechanism for the return of Ukrainian children. It involves the verification and updating of data regarding deported children, documenting the crimes committed by Russia, and proposing practical actions for individual countries to facilitate the return of specific children or groups of children. We continue to uncover new cases of forced transfer and deportation of Ukrainian children by the Russian Federation. Those responsible will be held accountable for their actions according to the law, and Ukrainian children will be reunited with their families”.
“The Orphans Feeding Foundation has stood with Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale invasion and the support of the “Bring Kids Back UA” has been our absolute priority. We work with the Presidential Office of Ukraine and the Ombudsman of Ukraine to find and return those children, as well as increase awareness on the topic so that those crimes are recognized by international institutions and brought to justice at the International Criminal Court soon. Our aim is to make the voices of the Ukrainian children heard”, said Mariam Lambert, Co-Founder of Orphans Feeding Foundation.
As concluded by Daria Zarivna, Advisor to the Head of the Presidential Office, COO of Bring Kids Back UA: “Any country, organization or individual is welcome to join the implementation of the “Bring Kids Back UA” initiative within the framework of the action plan. We are grateful to many of our friends in the Netherlands who have contributed to the mission of protecting the rights of Ukrainian children and reuniting them with families. Following productive meetings in the Hague, we are confident that this circle of supporters will continue to grow”.