Thursday, December 01, 2005

Migrants And Asylum Seekers Are Regularly Abused in the Ukraine

Ukraine has been charged with subjecting migrants and asylum seekers to abuse, including extended detention in appalling conditions, violence, extortion, robbery and forced returns to face torture or persecution, according to a Human Rights Watch report released on the eve of an EU-Ukraine summit.

European Union policies worsten these problems, presuting Ukraine to prevent migrants from entering the European Union. Migration will be a major issue in the Eu-Ukraine conference in Kiev.

The Human Rights Watch report documents the routine detention of migrants and asylum seekers in conditions of severe overcrowding, frequently inadequate bedding and clothing, and little or no access to fresh air, exercise and medical treatment.

The detainees face physical abuse, verbal harassment, robbery and extortion, 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.

Moreover, Human Rights Watch also documented the use of return agreements between Ukraine and its EU neighbors to summarily return migrants and asylum seekers to Ukraine without first determining whether they need protection as refugees or on human rights grounds.

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.”


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