New Report Reveals Devastating Impacts of Ukraine’s Ban on Men Fleeing Conflict

AMHERST, Mass., July 10, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Human Security Lab, a research collective dedicated to promoting the safety and amplifying the voices of civilians in conflict zones, has today released its groundbreaking report on the Ukrainian conflict, entitled, "Protecting Civilian Men’s Right to Flee the Ukraine War: Strategic and Humanitarian Impacts."

The report highlights how the unnecessary and counterproductive travel restrictions imposed on approximately 9,456,905 civilian men aged 18 to 60 in Ukraine, preventing them from fleeing the active conflict zone, are affecting them and the entire civilian population as the country moves forward with its military counter-offensive.

Although there has been considerable attention to civilian harms from Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, Human Security Lab is the first organization to directly address the issue of the travel ban from a human rights, civilian protection and strategic perspective. The findings come from a comprehensive survey involving over 4,000 Ukrainian citizens, conducted by Human Security Lab, and analyses of citizen comments on petitions to Zelensky to lift the ban, as well as numerous consultations with experts and civil society organizations.

The survey responses give rarely-talked-about insights into the lives of civilians in Ukraine under the Russian onslaught, highlighting the vulnerability of civilian men to harm by Russian troops, as well as the harm to women and children when families are separated.

“Ukraine is rightly fighting for its life against an invader, but this report shows that it's high time to rethink this particular law on humanitarian and strategic grounds,” stated Professor Charli Carpenter, Director of the Human Security Lab.

“We have a year of evidence that splitting up families and forcing men to stay is harmful, unnecessary and counterproductive to both the war effort and wider goals of democracy and civilian protection.”

Key highlights from the report include:

  1. Civilian men are particularly vulnerable to sex-selective massacres in conflict zones, including Ukraine.
  2. The ban is broadly unpopular among Ukrainian public opinion.
  3. Restricting the right of civilian men to leave a war zone is inconsistent with international human rights standards.
  4. Women (including transgender women), children, and students are also adversely affected by the travel ban.
  5. Lifting or relaxing the ban could increase war morale, reduce corruption, align Ukraine with Europe rather than Russia, and raise war revenue.

Additionally, the travel ban is inconsistent with Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which states, “Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.” Countries are permitted to suspend this right in time of war, but not on the basis of gender, according to research by law professor Amy Maguire of the University of Newcastle, one of numerous experts who consulted on the report.

Professor Carpenter stated she hoped this new report would facilitate a change of Ukrainian policy:

“We hope that Zelensky will listen to his people, adopt an enlightened approach rather than a Soviet-era one, and set an example for other nations with outdated gender-selective laws in wartime.

“Zelensky has an opportunity to change the narrative; that Ukrainians can contribute even if they cross the border - it doesn’t mean you’re not a patriot. Our data clearly shows lifting the travel ban would be good for the nation, for the moral high ground, and for national unity.

Professor Carpenter added a call to action for humanitarian organizations around the world:

“We ask that human rights and humanitarian organizations advocate for all civilians equally, regardless of gender, both in this conflict and other conflicts around the world where similar things happen.”

For media inquiries, or contacts to Ukrainian families affected by the ban, please contact:

Professor Charli Carpenter
Director: Human Security Lab
+ 1 413-559-1872

About Human Security Lab: The Human Security Lab, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, supports a community of researchers interested in human (in-)security, issues around freedom from fear (violence, conflict, human rights abuse, democracy), freedom from want (economic security, food security, climate security, health security), and the role of global of inequality in the human interest.