PRESS-RELEASE: Situation of the asylum-seekers at the detention centres for foreign nationals in Volyn and Chernigiv regions
UNHCR remains concerned about the situation of detainees, including many asylum-seekers and minors who are currently held in two detention centres in the Volyn and Chernigiv regions of Ukraine. Their situation remains problematic even after several visits of UNHCR staff and NGO lawyers and Government officials. To obtain clarity more visits and interviews are scheduled for the coming weeks.
According to various reports more than 100 persons are contesting their detention or claim that they continue to be denied a fair opportunity to exercise their right to apply for asylum. Some individuals who are sentenced to 1 year terms of detention for attempting to cross borders without proper documents contest their incarceration by threatening to adopt more radical means of protest. Some claim to be children or unaccompanied minors originating from Somalia who pursuant to international and Ukrainian standards would normally deserve special attention.
UNHCR cannot at this stage verify all the allegations it continues to receive. It remains unclear why so many persons who claim to be minors are considered by the authorities to be adults as the Ministry of Health has only recently started to formulate a procedure for age assessment. Determining the true age and sometimes also the identity of asylum seekers who are undocumented poses serious problems in every context. UNHCR therefore remains committed to remain in close touch with the authorities to resolve the current difficulties in the most appropriate manner.
According to the information available to UNHCR there are also several Afghan families with children detained in Volyn detention facility which means that school age children remain without access to education for months on end.
UNHCR and the State Migration Service staff visited the detention centre in Volyn region jointly on 21 January 2012 to meet with the detainees and agreed on a number of steps to redress the situation.
In the last week 28 persons submitted applications for asylum to the administration of the detention centre in the Volyn region. While no staff from Volyn Migration Service were present to conduct interviews, UNHCR has been assured that they started to process the claims. Applications were submitted in English and first need to be translated by the staff of the detention centre into Ukrainian. As of today, none of the 28 applicants have received any confirmation about their status or any documents attesting that their applications for asylum were accepted.
UNHCR remains hopeful that the agreements reached will be fulfilled and that all necessary steps will be taken by the responsible authorities to defuse the tense situation in accordance with national law and the international obligations Ukraine assumed.
Yesterday UNHCR learned that a number of applications were being received and processed by Migration Service staff in Chernigiv. While applications are processed by the Migration Service staff, UNHCR was told that 4 out of 5 applications lodged by Somali asylum-seekers were declared as manifestly unfounded. This aggravates concern among Somalis who accuse the authorities of systematically denying international protection to them and continue to keep them in detention, even though their deportation is not advisable or possible.
UNHCR is especially concerned about the latest reports received on 30 January that riot police were deployed to the detention centre in Volyn. UNHCR is verifying the numerous allegations that are coming in and awaits a first-hand account from two members of the Commission on prevention of torture and State Migration Service officials who are looking into situation and are to interview the detainees today.
• 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 2010 UNHCR contributed over 32 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 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.
• 2011 marked several anniversaries of considerable importance to refugees and stateless persons around the world: the 60th anniversary of the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 50th anniversary of the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, two milestones of the post World War II period in developing and enforcing human rights standards.