603.700 km² (CIA World Factbook)
2016 Law on Amendments to certain legislative acts of Ukraine concerning documents proving citizenship of Ukraine, identity certificate or special status, aimed at liberalization of the visa regime for Ukraine by the EU
In migration terms, Ukraine is a country of origin, transit and destination. Various factors have influenced the national migration situation: the population decline by ten million people since 1993, socio-economic development, labour market situation, visa liberalization with the EU, the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. While the net migration rate has been positive since 2005, the population continues to decline, mostly due to natural decrease, and ages rapidly.
According to the State Statistics Service of Ukraine, the outflow in 2020 amounted to 19,121 and the inflow to 26,361 persons. Most flows are regional, between Ukraine and neighbouring CIS countries to the East as well as EU Member States to the West. CIS countries (Moldova, Belarus and Russia), along with Turkey and India, constitute the top countries of origin of immigrants. Meanwhile, EU member states (i.e. Italy, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic) along with Russia constitute the main countries of destination.
According to the World Migration Report 2020, Ukraine is one of the top countries of origin of international migrants following India, Mexico, China, Russia, Syria, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Official sources estimate that over 3 million Ukrainians work abroad on a permanent basis and 7 to 9 million temporarily. Almost half (45%) of all emigrants leave for economic reasons. Ukrainian labour migrants have become the backbone of the Ukrainian economy contributing to some 8 % of the country’s GDP through remittances.
While there is no accurate data on the exact number of Ukrainians leaving the country, the number of Ukrainians residing in the EU is constantly growing. In 2019, over 750,000 Ukrainian nationals received first-time residence permits in the EU, thereby constituting a record number. 87% of them were issued for remunerated activities with the lion’s share issued by Poland for a period of three to eleven months. Migration flows to Russia, on the other hand, have been steadily declining from close to 1.8 million in 2017 to 1.6 million in 2019 and 790,000 in 2020. Meanwhile, the number of Ukrainian nationals who obtained Russian citizenship reached a maximum of 409,549 in 2020. The amendments to Russia’s citizenship law passed in 2020 may in part explain this trend. Since 2014, Russia has also been hosting a considerable number of Ukrainian refugees but the number declined sharply from over 300,000 in 2015 to some 18,000 in 2020.
In 2020, Ukraine hosted over 290,000 immigrants. However, the annual number of new permanent residence permits reached a minimum of approximately 12,000 for the first time in the past decade. In 2020, some 150,000 foreigners stayed temporarily in the country. These are mostly university students and temporary workers. Meanwhile, the number of foreigners and stateless persons officially working in Ukraine is increasing: from 12.400 in 2017 to over 23.400 in 2020. Labour migrants are mostly executives and managers with every third heading an enterprise.
Increased immigration, in particular from Azerbaijan, India, Turkey, Morocco and Nigeria, has done little to compensate the significant demographic decline, and Ukraine still lacks a systematic integration policy. The country is equally home to the region’s largest number of IDPs, amounting to over 734,000 persons according to UNHCR and over 1.4 million according to the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine. To present, their situation remains an emergency as they continue facing severe challenges, ranging from their socio-economic integration to properly addressing their political, legal or psychological needs.
A country of transit, Ukraine is bordering the EU and Schengen area. In recent years, the number of transit migrants crossing the country irregularly has been on the rise. At present, Ukraine has concluded readmission agreements with 17 countries.
Ukraine’s demographic decline and continued outflow of labour force create labour shortages and hinder economic growth. In response, the country has been constantly adjusting and improving its migration policies. Enhancing and facilitating the return and reintegration of Ukrainians is one important element of these efforts, as stipulated in the Strategy of the state migration policy until 2025, adopted in 2017. The Strategy further identifies tasks aimed at promoting legal immigration to Ukraine through developing and setting up a quota system for employment, which shall respond flexibly to labour market needs.
Within the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development of GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova), Ukraine aims to combat irregular migration through proactive information exchange and joint efforts to identify human smugglers and traffickers.
Ukraine contributed actively to the elaboration of the Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees but signed neither of them because they did not tackle the issue of IDPs critical to Ukraine.