PRESS-RELEASE: UN Refugee Agency and Prosecutor General of Ukraine discuss asylum and extradition in high level meeting

   

Kyiv (Ukraine) ? Mr. Guillermo Bettocchi, UNHCR Director for Eastern Europe, met with Mr. Viktor Pshonka, General Prosecutor of Ukraine, in the framework of his mission to Ukraine and Moldova. This was also the first meeting of UNHCR Regional Representative Mr. Oldrich Andrysek with the General Prosecutor?s Office since assuming his duties in January 2011. Other participants of the meeting included Deputies Anatoliy Prishko and Grigoriy Sereda, and Mr. Oleksandr Prihodko, Head of Central Department of International Cooperation. The meeting was held in a constructive atmosphere and served to identify how best to assist Ukraine to strengthen the rule of law. 

The meeting allowed exchanging views on a number of legal and practical issues concerning asylum and extradition. Mr. Bettocchi and Mr. Andrysek briefed the Prosecutor General about the work of UNHCR globally and in Ukraine and its role in the context of the Country Agreement with the Government of Ukraine of 1996 and 1951 Refugee Convention. The procedure for conducting refugee status determination under UNHCR?s mandate was also clarified. Mr. Pshonka assured the visitors that his office is keen on implementing recent legislative changes in the Criminal Procedural Code to improve the system of justice in Ukraine. 

Mr. Bettocchi underscored concern with another case of extradition of a refugee to Uzbekistan that took place on 20 September 2012. As the national asylum system did not recognize him as a refugee in need of international protection, UNHCR after reviewing his case took him under its mandate. He was detained since February 2012 and UNHCR informed the authorities that it was seeking his urgent resettlement to a third country. The individual?s request for complementary protection under Ukrainian law was under consideration by the State Migration Service, but he was nevertheless extradited. 

UNHCR also drew attention to the problem of access to persons of concern. A request dated 12 September 2012 to meet the refugee was not granted. This was contrary to the provisions of the Country Agreement with the Government of Ukraine of 1996 and prevented UNHCR from exercising its mandate effectively. 

In general, UNHCR noted that every extradition of an asylum-seeker whose application for international protection remains under consideration by Ukraine's State Migration Service or of a recognized refugee is contrary to international law. Refoulement is considered a grave violation of international refugee law and national legislation because it involves the expulsion of an individual to a territory where his life or freedom would be threatened.  The obligation to respect the principle of non-refoulement as provided for under international refugee and human rights law takes precedence over any duty to extradite on the basis of a bilateral or multilateral extradition agreement. 

The General Prosecutor?s Office proposed to establish a working group to develop common understanding of the key principles of international protection of authorities responsible for decisions on refugee status determination and extradition. UNHCR welcomed the offer as a step in the right direction and looks forward to a formal invitation.

 

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For further information please contact Oleksandra Makovska, Associate Regional PI Officer at UNHCR Regional Representation for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine, Public Information Unit. Tel.: +380 44 288-97-10, +380 50 310 1767 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Web-site: http://www.unhcr.org.ua.


Background information:

 

• The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950. It became operational on January 1, 1951. UNHCR?s contributions to the world peace have been recognized with Nobel Peace prizes in 1954 and 1981.
• UNHCR works in Ukraine since March 1994. From 1996 to 2011 UNHCR contributed over 36 million USD to Ukraine. UNHCR programmes have over the years enhanced the capacities of numerous Government agencies and non-governmental organization and provided life sustaining assistance to thousands of individuals (direct assistance in the form of food and non-food items, medical assistance or monthly subsistence allowance in 2011 amounted to 450,000 USD).
• UNHCR has since its inception provided training and material support in the form of equipment (computers, vehicles, refurbishment of premises) to numerous Government agencies (the State
• UNHCR notes that Ukraine accepted to abide by international refugee law 10 years ago by acceding to the 1951 Convention related to the status of refugees and that it has indicated readiness to accede to the 1954 and 1961Conventions on Statelessness.
• Committee for Nationalities and Religions, Regional Migration Services, Border Guards) to the tune of 2.5 million USD.
• As of January 1, 2012 there are app. 2,500 recognized refugees and 5,875 stateless persons in Ukraine.
• In 2011, the three countries? programmes (Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine) managed by the UNHCR Regional Representation in Kyiv amounted to 4.7 million USD ex-staffing.
• UNHCR provides protection to refugees and other displaced persons on a non-political and humanitarian basis. The objective is to seek permanent solutions for persons who depend on international protection which, in the event of impossibility of return to the country of origin, entails providing for a supportive environment to integrate locally.
• Globally there are 43 million forcibly displaced persons, the majority of whom receive some form of UNHCR assistance (15.2 million refugees, 27.1 million internally displaced, 983 thousand asylum seekers).
• There are as many as 12 million stateless persons around the globe and 6.6 million are known to UNHCR in some 60 countries world wide.
• Over the past 60 years UNHCR has saved millions of lives, by bringing donor funds and international political will to bear on the world?s refugee problems on a scale unimaginable prior to its founding.
• In addition to saving lives, UNHCR continues to help millions of people to rebuild their lives, to return safely home or to find new homes.