(Un)safe Ukraine for asylum seekers

Svitlana Dorosh

ВВС Ukraine


Asylum seekers crossing Ukrainian border cannot always rely on help. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova regards that nowadays Ukraine is not a safe country for refugees.

“At the present stage, Ukraine cannot be supposed to be safe country for all refugees. We cannot say that the system works in a full measure and protects all.” – Oldrih Andrisek, regional representative of Agency, admitted at the meeting with the journalists in Kyiv.

He considers that “according to statistic, there are certain nationalities that are more difficult to get or are issued refugee status at least.”

Answering the questions of BBC Ukraine about why Ukrainian governmental bodies reject in issuing political asylum to refugees from former Soviet Republics, Oldrih Andrisek reported: “We cannot assert that it is a rule, however, unfortunately there were really situations when the access of people to international human rights organizations protecting refugee rights was not guaranteed”.

Rejects based on unclear reasons

“Only concrete life circumstances of particular person influence upon the final decision on protection granting, and not the country of origin or political expediency.”

Viktor Sheibut, State Migration Service of Ukraine

Presented information by UNHCR testifies that in the course of last five years refugee status was granted mainly to migrants from Afghanistan, Palestine, Somalia, Iraq, Syria. Such a status was received by representatives of Russia only in 2009 and 2009 for the last time, Belarus – in 2008-2010.

Oldrih Andrisek accepted that according to statistics, there were more rejects in granting refugee status to migrants from Russia than to representatives of other countries.  “I would not tell that it is said about some system, but sometimes it really happens due to reasons to which there are no explanations”, – he said.

Simultaneously, Viktor Sheibut, the first head deputy of State Migration Service, who directly takes part in resolution of final decisions as to asylum granting, assured that on issues of refugee status granting Migration Service “first of all implements humanitarian mission and does not have any political bias.”

“In every separate case all information is learned that can be received by the specialists of Migration Service as well as due to the results of interview with an applicant. Only concrete life circumstances of particular person influence upon the final decision on protection granting, and not the country of origin or political expediency”, – Viktor Sheibut told.

Rozvozhaev and others

In 2012 human rights activists declared about a series of cases when, on their opinion, decision of Ukraine was made on extradition of the citizens  – migrants from former Soviet Republics – exposed these people to danger.

Representative of Migration Service Viktor Sheibut assures that cases of reject in asylum granting are rare.

The last example – mysterious disappearance of Leonid Rozvazhaev in Ukraine, the member of opposition Russian Party “Left front”. In fact, Ukrainian Prosecutor’s Office made a decision about closing of criminal case on his disappearance based on the reply of State Border Guard Service about his entrance to Ukraine and departure to Russia legally. However, still it is unknown, not for certain, what happened to Leonid Rozvazhaev on the territory of Ukraine. As it was informed by UNHCR, capital Prosecutor’s Office investigated one more criminal case – Application for stealing the very Leonid Rozvazhaev and his lawyers.

In August of the previous year, UNHCR expressed its concernment as to fate of two migrants from Northern Caucasia. Despite of the right on access to detainees at trial centre of Kyiv and Kharkiv, UNHCR could not even get reliable information about the place of asylum seekers’ stay.

In March 2012, UNO Agency censured the reject in access of two citizens of Kirghizia to the territory of Ukraine at Kyiv airport “Boryspil”.

Will there be more political refugees in 2013?

At the same time, representative of UNHCR Oldrih Andrisek expressed his hope that in the year 2013 situation in Ukraine will be changed essentially.

“At this stage Ukraine cannot be regarded as safe country for all refugees. We cannot say that the system works in a full measure and protects all”.

Oldrih Andrisek, UNHCR

These hopes are connected first with the fact that an Article has appeared in a new Criminal Procedural Code (CPC) that reflects the content of International Conventions concerning asylum seekers.

Before, extradition from Ukraine was impossible only in case if a person had already had a refugee status. New CPC stipulates that governmental bodies do not have a right to deport a person beyond the borders of Ukraine from the moment when he/she has made an application about his/her wish to get political asylum and until the final decision as to his/her fate is made. In other words, asylum seekers “did not live till” getting refugee status before and State Migration Service made a resolution on the extradition.

Oldrih Andrisek stresses that now everything would have to have another look. Any foreigners can make an application with request about asylum immediately after arrival to Ukraine.

“If a person will declare about his/her pursue on political motives and that he/she wants to get political refugee status in any form – written or oral, so Border Service is obliged to transmit this information to State Migration Service, which is the body that makes the final decision on the extradition or issue of the status of political refugee”, – Mr. Andrisek marked. He also told that announcement of a person into an international search by INTERPOL – rather often oppositionists from the countries of former USSR – “yet does not mean that this person is guilty”.

“Unfortunately, there are political opponents of the power as well in the lists of INTERPOL and not only the criminal offenders. On this purpose, the interlocutions are conducted. If the person is called a criminal offender at the site of INTERPOL, and there are all signs of persecution with political goal, so this person deserves for international protection and he/she has to get such a protection. As INTERPOL cannot be an instrument of political punishment. It is foreseen in the Article of this organization as well”, – Oldrih Andrisek said.

However, according to the words of Andrisek, it would be incorrectly to say that Ukraine deserves just for critics. “Thousand persons got asylum, many of them have naturalized and have Ukrainian passports”, – he adds.

The first head deputy of State Migration Service, Viktor Sheibut, stressed that Ukraine “has recreated from the transit country to the country of settling”. The representative of Migration Service affirms that cases of reject in protection granting are rare and that they also exist in the countries of Europe.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ukrainian/politics/2013/02/130206_office_refugees_un_ukraine_sd.shtml