Ukrainian Security Service sends Uzbeks home
According to the newspaper “Sevodnya” [“Today”], Ukraine could be plunged into an international scandal as a result of the deportation on 14 February of 10 citizens of Uzbekistan. According to some reports they are accused by the Uzbek regime of having taken part in the so-called “Andijon Uprising (in May 2005), while the official version from the Ukrainian authorities is that those deported were illegal migrants,
At first the security service (SSU) was not particularly forthcoming about the operation however relatives and friends of the deported Uzbeks turned to the Ukrainian representation of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and the mass media became aware of the mass detention of Uzbek citizens. An official reaction followed, with the SSU Press Centre tersely notifying “Interfax”. “During measures carried out as part of the struggle against illegal immigration, on 7 February the Security Service of Ukraine, in a joint operation with bodies of the Ministry of Internal Affairs detained 10 citizens of Uzbekistan. In connection with the fact that these individuals were illegally staying on Ukrainian territory, on 14 February the Kyivsky District Court in Simferopol ruled to have them deported".
According to the Head of the State Committee on National Minorities and Immigration (SCNMI), Serhiy Rudyk, 9 of the 10 deported citizens of Uzbekistan had, between 1 and 6 February, applied for political asylum. On 13 February their applications were all turned down in the department of the SCNMI of the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea. However, Rudyk says that he heard about the deportation of these citizens from the newspaper “Sevodnya”. Serhiy Rudyk concedes that in this case the SSU broke the law of Ukraine which gives citizens of other countries 7 days in which to appeal a court ruling on deportation (whereas they were deported on the very day of the courts decision).
At the same time human rights activists are unanimous in asserting that this detention was nothing more than a special operation. “According to our information these people were detained at the request of the Uzbek authorities. They apparently claim that these people were involved in the “Andijon case”, “Sevodnya” was told by Olena Ryabina, head of the program “Help for political refugees from Central Asia” of the international “Civic Assistance” Committee. The chairperson of the independent human rights society of Uzbekistan, Surat Ikramov, stated that the security services were agreeing among themselves and for a certain fee were deporting people in opposition to the regime of the Uzbek President Islam Karimov. “At home they can expect torture, abuse and the fabrication of criminal charges which will result in years in prison”.
When asked by “Syohodni” whether the deportation of the Uzbeks had been the result of a “request” from Tashkent, the Press Secretary of the SSU, Maryna Ostapenko, beginning to shout, declared that all questions would only be answered in written form and that she would not say more than she had already said to “Interfax”.