In June our organization got a shower of phone calls and appeals asking for assistance to resolve the issue of crowding at corridors “Horlivka—Bakhmnut, Zaytsevo checkpoint” and “Donetsk—Kurakhovo, Mariyinka checkpoint”. People claimed that the process of control has really slowed down, thus, resulting in many hours of dead time. There were also messages of horrible sanitary conditions at the roadblocks, lack of sufficient number of benches and tents.
We tried to respond as operatively as possible to the messages. Moreover, we initiated the convening of an intradepartmental working group to pay an operative visit to the both corridors, to see with the own eyes the situation and get down to its resolving with no delay.
Unfortunately, only the ATC responded to our appeal to convene the intradepartmental working group. Besides, the ATC stated that they see no sense in the convening of the group, as its (ATC) members take every effort to improve the situation.
Despite the refusal, we decided to visit the spots on our own in order to see to the situation.
And now, the details.
Corridor “Horlivka—Bakhmut, Zaytseve checkpoint” 29.06.2016
- There are huge piles of daily waste and dead animals at roadsides. Trashbinsarelocatedexceptionallynearthecheckpoint.
- One can see well-trodden paths to wooded areas which are obviously used for improvised latrine facilities.
- Real latrines located near the checkpoint are almost full; they apparently were cleaned long time ago.
- There is an MSF first aid point. It starts working at 8:30, i.e. 1.5 hours after the checkpoint’s opening.
- In front of the checkpoint there are benches, and also there are three benches at the checkpoint (it is not enough) and many elderly people as well as handicapped people have to withstand at huge lines.
- The examination of pedestrian’s baggage is performed at a concrete stone, there are no racks.
- There are no tents both for those whose baggage is being examined and those at passport control.
- There are no boards outlining any information on the checkpoint’s operating hours and rules, neither are there any signs indicating shelters location for the emergency cases.
- There is a regular bus from Kramatorsk with destination “Kramatorsk—Zaytsevo checkpoint”. The bus has neither a parking place nor a space for manoeuvring. To let in passengers the bus drives 200 meters away from the checkpoint and people get in right at the roadside.
- The bus driver refuses to give a lift to people going to Bakhmut, although it passes Bakhmut on its way.
- The number of regular buses shuttling between Zaytsevo checkpoint and Mayorsk is not sufficient for all the passengers; therefore, it results in crowding and huge queues both to the checkpoint and to the roadblock of zero limit Mayorsk.
- The number of officers at pedestrian passport control (both directions) is insufficient too; it causes huge lines and crowding.
- From the Mayorsk direction at the checkpoint the officers of border control installed a hand-made tent. Thenumberofbenchesisinsufficient.
- The price for the bus shuttling between Zaytsevo checkpoint and Mayorsk makes 15 UAH for the distance just 17 km, with the fact of the busses being overcrowded all the time.
- The representative of the fiscal service demands to show technical data sheet those people who carry spare parts, which contradicts to the Interim Operating Procedure.
- The majority of officials performing the control procedures at the checkpoint lack ID badges.
- At bad weather conditions the representatives of all the services at check points performed the control with no shelter available.
- At 12:00 around 400 people (pedestrians) gathered near the checkpoint from the Mayorsk, the border control officers launched a unit designed to control vehicles. This move has significantly boosted the process.
- Buses cruising from Zaytsevo checkpoint to Bakhmut manoeuvre and let in passengers right in front of the checkpoint. Since there is insufficient number of buses, about 150 people are gathered inside, which result in pushing and shoving and conflicts at the security facility.
- The citizens regularly use the two tents installed by the State Emergency Service. According to the words provided by the representatives of the service each night there are people overnighting. Quite regularly the tents are visited by those who feel ill because of heat or just to seek shelter. There were nights when there was not enough room in the tents to house all, and several people had to share one bed.
Zero checkpoint Mayorsk.
- Since the extreme roadblock has recently been moved towards the NGCA, it significantly narrowed the scope of opportunities for transport manoeuvring and encumbered the movement for buses.
- As there are not enough buses cruising between the checkpoints, the large number of pedestrians is being accumulated.
- The positive aspect in all that is the availability of benches installed along the wooded areas from the north of the corridor.
- There are no boards providing any information on the checkpoint’s operating hours and rules, there are no signs indicating shelters location for the cases of emergency.
- There is an MSF mobile first aid point.
Regarding all what has been seen, we prepared a set of recommendations on how to optimize the operation of the corridors and improve the conditions there.
Concerning the “Horlivka—Bakhmut” corridor, it is necessary:
1. to widen the pass-through capacity of the checkpoint for the pedestrians, to do that it is mandatory:
1.1. to increase the number of working places for officers performing the passport control up to 4 people for both directions;
1.2. to increase the number of buses cruising between the checkpoint and zero limit roadblock;
1.3. to delimitate the bus station for the bus cruising between the checkpoint and Bakhmut beyond the checkpoint area, installing a separate fenced corridor from the eastern part behind the concrete fence. In other words it is necessary to design the foundation behind the fence and install the steel-wire border;
1.4. to establish a space for bus manoeuvring as well as get in/out at the roadblock of the zero limit.
2.1. to arrange the cleaning of the areas around the checkpoint and zero limit roadblock at places of mass gathering of people;
2.2. to install trash bins and arrange the regular trash removal;
2.3. to arrange the waste pump-out from latrines on regular basis;
2.4. to install tents at stuff and baggage examination points, as well as near the passport control modules;
2.5. to install racks for baggage examination;
2.6. to install extra benches at places of constant crowding;
2.7. to arrange a full-scale bus stop for buses cruising from the checkpoint towards Bakhmut and other cities.
3. We advise to the State Border Service of Ukraine:
3.1. to increase the number of personnel performing the passport control with focus to pedestrians (see item 1);
3.2. to provide all the officials working outside with raincoats;
3.3. that all the officers of the Border Control should follow the “2 working days – 2 days-off” format being the most optimal and satisfactory for the staff.
4. we advise to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine:
4.1. to equip the tents with extra fold beds;
4.2. to install at least one fridge in the tent for cooling of foodstuffs and water for the personnel and visitors.
But the most important piece of advice destined to increase the pass-through capacity of the corridor up to 20 thousand and bring the villages away from the area between the checkpoint and “zero” is to shift the checkpoint to Mayorsk and create a strong first grade checkpoint with accent to pedestrians (4 working places for passport control at each direction). As well as to create the bus station in Mayorsk with bus cruising often enough.
Corridor “Donetsk – Kurakhovo, checkpoint Mariyinka” 30.06.2016г
Above all it is necessary to mention the high efficiency and what is more, the productiveness of border officers serving the given corridor. Despite the minuscule support and sometimes even the complete lack of any support from the local authorities, the border officers initiate and manage to implement positive changes.
- There is a first aid point with physician constantly available.
- Right amid the road in front of the checkpoint there are blocks installed which hinder the two-line movement, thus, excluding the so-called privileged lines.
- The latrines are cleaned but very rarely.
- The baggage examination is performed at racks.
- The benches are not enough. People stand under boiling sun, finding refuge mostly under parasols.
- There is no tent. But, according to the information provided by the checkpoint supervisor, the tent is currently being constructed and will be installed very soon.
- The number of working places for pedestrian passport control (both directions) is insufficient and causes overcrowding and large queues.
- The cost of one seat in the bus cruising between the checkpoint and the zero limit roadblock is 10 UAH for the distance of 600 meters.
- They let in only passengers for seats, no standing allowed.
- It is forbidden to walk on foot from the checkpoint to the zero limit roadblock.
- The checkpoint is not being crossed by 8-seat buses evidently pursuing a commercial aim to gain money at transportation.
- In front of the zero limit roadblock there are antitank mines installed right at traffic way. Currently the special box to conceal the mines for the day time is being designed in order to secure the civilians’ crossing the checkpoint.
- Behind the zero limit roadblock towards the NGCA there is a latrine installed by the locals who charge 2 UAH for one visit.
- There are no boards to provide any information on operating hours and rules of the checkpoint, there are no signs indicating the direction of shelters for the cases of emergency.
- The majority of officials performing the control at the checkpoints lack ID badges.
- The representatives of military forces of Ukraine serving the zero limit roadblock share water with the civilians, thus, spending their stocks.
Recommendations as to the “Donetsk—Kurakhovo” checkpoint:
1. to increase the pass-through capacity of the checkpoint for pedestrians, to do that it is necessary:
1.1. to increase the number of passport control officers up to three in both directions;
1.2. to increase the number of busses cruising between the checkpoint and zero limit roadblock;
1.3. to give the opportunity to pedestrians to walk from the checkpoint to the zero limit roadblock by creating a pedestrian corridor delimitated with steel-wire from the northern part of the road as well as around the checkpoint area (similar to the Stanitsa Luhanskaya checkpoint)
2. to oblige the public services:
2.1. to provide the regular procurement of drinking water to the checkpoint and zero limit road block;
2.2. to install a fully-featured first aid unit where one can maintain respective sanitary conditions.
The crowded lines at the checkpoints are because of:
- Important! All the currently operating checkpoints were not designed for the today’s pass-through capacity. They operate in excess quota and it is not normal; it entails constant failures and excess fatigue (and nervousness) with the personnel.
- The “Clean Hands” initiative run by the Border Control service has brought cardinal changes in the staff in charge for passport control. Border control officers have come from all around the country to replace those arrested, fired, or suspended. New employees have no experience so far to perform such specific functions. The checkpoint here is not similar to the regular border control checkpoints. This is quite new for them and they need time to learn all the regulations and procedures.
- There is a catastrophic deficit of personnel at the Border Control with every corridor. Some officers manage to come and work for three shifts in a row, causing the significant decrease of professionalism and speed.
- Recent intervention of the “suspicious” people’s control that supervises the lines and let through the privileged. This is not the kind of the people’s control aimed at eliminating the pseudo-privileged, it is something new and we’ll try to puzzle it out.
- There is one-line queue at the zero limit roadblock in Mayorsk leading towards the checkpoint! Those heading for the logistics centre also share this line. The number of vehicles heading for the logistics centre has turned out to be quite significant. Nobody is going to allocate a separate line for them just to avoid corruption. In such a way those heading for logistic centres create extra crowd.
With all that in mind we would like to make a certain conclusion and summarize the recommendation for all the members of the control and infrastructure development bodies in charge for the corridors.
We recommend a little bit shifting focus towards the interests of pedestrians. Extra working places for passport control will boost the pass-through capacity approximately by 30%.
It is also vital to highlight that the initiative of moving the checkpoints of Zaytseve and Novotroitske towards the zero limit roadblocks will allow not only resolving the issue of human settlements’ location between the roadblocks, but also eliminating senseless double queues and costly transportation charges between the two roadblocks.
We would also like to single out that our visit would not be so informative if it wasn’t for the support from the State Border Service of Ukraine. We were really surprised to witness the willingness of the management of the Service to fight corruption within, as well as to promote transparency and cooperation with civil society.
We would also like to thank those border guards who despite the inactivity of local authorities install benches, tents and arrange the first aid points at the checkpoint. One would think that they couldn’t care less, but they do care. And we are thankful for that!
We do not want you to have an impression that we are covering up for the border guards. They do have problems. And it is exactly to the solving of these problems that we will dedicate our following articles to and appeal to those crossing the contact line.
We want to unite the three powers: the management of the border control, NGO’s and regular people crossing the checkpoints to join the full-scale war against corruption at the roadblocks.
Our visit was made possible thanks to the civil and financial aid.