Xenophobia on the rise
The regional adviser on public information to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees Nataliya Prokopchuk says that over the last year the number of incidents involving xenophobia has risen. “Over this last year we have received 50 complaints from people originally from Africa or Asia, as well as from the formal republics of the USSR. At the same time a year ago, we had received around 12. People mainly complain of attacks, and also discrimination on racial grounds”,
She believes that this is only the tip of the iceberg since only refugees, i.e. people who have fled persecution in their own country, and far from all of them, approach her Department. “People are very frightened even of coming to us, and only isolated individuals turn to the police. And also most attacks on foreigners get treated by the police not as racial, but as ordinary hooliganism”, Ms Prokopchuk explains. The websites of the US and French embassies have information about areas of the capital which they recommend not going to because there are a lot of skinheads: Khreschatyk, Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square] and also the majority of Kyiv parks.
Sociologists are also talking of an increase in xenophobia among Ukrainians. According to a study by the Kyiv International Sociology Institute (KISU), over the last 12 years the level of anti-Semitism has risen by 10%. If Jews are not welcomed as inhabitants of Ukraine by 35% of those surveyed, the analogous figures are 61.4% for Rumanians, and 71.8% for Roma people.
Director of the KISU Volodymyr Paniotto says that the most disturbing trend in the rise in anti-Semitism is that over the last 10 years the most intensive increase in intolerance towards Jewish people has been seen in young people from 18-20. “Whereas the general level of xenophobia is greatest among older age groups, the level of anti-Semitism is the highest among this group of young people. For example, 45% of young people did not want Jews living in Ukraine.
He says that the most negative attitudes are towards Roma people and Negroes. In addition, the level of xenophobia is directly dependent on the size of a populated area. “In rural areas the level is much higher than in the cities, and the larger the city, the lower the level of xenophobia. It also depends on a persons education. One sees the least xenophobia among people with a higher education.”
At the same time the Kuras Institute of Political and Ethnic and National Studies of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine presented slightly different findings, suggesting that behinds Roma people, Ukrainians also have a negative attitude to Chechens and Azerbaijanis.
Nataliya Prokopchuk points out that there is nonetheless progress in the fight against xenophobia. The Kyiv police have recently launched two criminal investigations over cases involving racial crimes. And the Kyiv Prosecutor Yevhen Blazhynsky on 2 December reported significant progress in the case of the murder of the Nigerian Hodnoys Myevi. Ms Prokopchuk believes that to a large extent the small number of criminal investigations over cases involving racial discrimination are due to the vagueness of the wording of the Criminal Code, whereas such crimes are easy to identify since usually they are provoked attacks, and the assailants do not rob their victims.
The Secretary of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Inter-ethnic relations Refat Chubarov considers that xenophobia needs to be fought by drawing the publics attention to the problem.
Ukrainian skinheads claim that their numbers are rising each year.