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17.02.2006 | Vitaly Ponomaryov

Ukraine has illegally deported 10 Uzbek refugees

   

Memorial Human Rights Centre  103051 Russia, Moscow, Maly Karetny per., 12 .(095)-200-65-06

Civic Assistance Committee  127006 Russia, Moscow, ul. Dolgorukovskaya, 33, str. 6,  т.(095)-973-54-74

16.02.2006

10 of the 11 Uzbek refugees detained on 7 February 2006 in the Crimea were, on the evening of 14 February, deported to Uzbekistan on the flight “Tashkent – Simferopol”. Human rights organizations consider the deportation to be illegal and in contravention of Ukraine’s international obligations, in particular, the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

The first information about the detention in the Crimea of 11 Uzbek émigrés was made public by the Memorial Human Rights Centre on 13 February 2006.

On 15 February the Press Centre of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) informed the agency “Interfax” that the detentions had been carried out as part of a joint operation of the SSU and Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine “as part of the struggle against illegal immigration”.  “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".

On 16 February the Ukrainian newspaper “Syohodni” [“Today”] published an article in which the Head of the State Committee on National Minorities and Immigration (SCNMI), Serhiy Rudyk was quoted as saying that 9 out 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.

In the opinion of “Memorial” and the “Civic Assistance” Committee, the forced deportation of 10 citizens of Uzbekistan immediately after the decision of the court is a flagrant violation of the rights of asylum seekers. Effectively all those deported were denied their right to appeal the ruling. Moreover, it is clear from the extremely swift review of the applications of refugees from Uzbekistan carried out by the Crimean department of the SCNMI that no serious investigation into the claims of the applicants can have been undertaken.

The Ukrainian authorities claim that all 10 Uzbeks deported “declined in writing to appeal against the decision to refuse them refugee status”. All of this forces the obvious analogy with last year’s incident in South Kyrgystan where 4 Andijon refugees, held in a pre-trial detention centre, also signed statements supposedly agreeing to “voluntary repatriation” and were handed over to the Uzbek security service.  Information was later received that the four had been subjected to torture.

The fate of the 11th Uzbek national detained remains unclear.  According to some reports, this person had “a close relative in Ukraine” and was therefore not deported.

Statements from Ukrainian officials avoid answering questions as to whether the Ukrainian authorities received a “request” from Tashkent to detain or deport the said individuals and whether or not Uzbek security service officers were present on Ukrainian territory during the detention of the “immigrants”.

According to “Memorial”’s information, 3 of the 11 people detained were witnesses of the events in Andijon in May 2005, although the SSU claims that they are unaware of any involvement by those deported in the “Andijon events”.

The deportation by Ukraine of Uzbek political refugees marks a turning point. Until recently political émigrés  from Uzbekistan, fearful of their likely fate in Russia, tried to get to Ukraine and then turn to UN High Commission for Refugees for international protection. They assumed in this that the commitment declared by the new regime to democracy and human rights were sufficient guarantee that political refugees would not be handed over to the Uzbek dictator. Now those illusions have been crushed.

 

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