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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

 

HRW: Migrants to Ukraine in danger

From Human Rights Watch:

Ukraine regularly subjects migrants and asylum seekers to abuse, including extended detention in appalling conditions, violence, extortion, robbery and forced returns to face torture or persecution, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today on the eve of the EU-Ukraine summit.

The European Union is exacerbating these problems by pressing Ukraine to prevent migrants from entering the European Union and to accept the return of those who do reach EU territory. Migration is expected to be high on the agenda of tomorrow’s summit in Kiev.

The 77–page report, “On the Margins - Ukraine: Rights Violations Against Migrants and Asylum Seekers at the New Eastern Border of the European Union,” documents the routine detention of migrants and asylum in appalling conditions, including severe overcrowding, frequently inadequate bedding and clothing, and little or no access to fresh air, exercise and medical treatment.

The report also documents the physical abuse, verbal harassment, robbery and extortion suffered by those in detention. Migrants and asylum seekers in detention often have no access to a lawyer and are unable to apply for release. The asylum system is barely functioning, leading to the forced return of people to countries where they face persecution or torture.

Asylum seekers from Chechnya are particularly vulnerable, both to abuse at the hands of the Ukrainian police and forced return to Russia, despite the risk of persecution they face in that country. Although Russian citizens do not require visas to enter Ukraine, Chechens are routinely denied access at the border unless they pay bribes. Chechens detained in Ukraine trying to enter the European Union are denied access to asylum. In fact, no Chechen has been recognized as a refugee in Ukraine. A Chechen woman told Human Rights Watch, “They don't consider us human beings.”

The report is based on interviews with more than 150 migrants and asylum seekers in Ukraine and its EU neighbors, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. It concludes that Ukraine cannot be considered a safe country for the purpose of returning migrants who are foreign nationals and failed asylum seekers unless Ukraine shows a significant improvement in its human rights and refugee-protection capacity.

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