Hospitality the Ukrainian way: three days in custody at Boryspil Airport



Late in the evening of 9 September a family from Afghanistan – a pregnant woman, her husband and one-year-old infant – was allowed onto Ukrainian territory after being unlawfully detained for three days by Kyiv border guards.

The family arrived in Ukraine to visit relatives who are Ukrainian nationals. They had valid visas issued by the Ukrainian Embassy in Pakistan and were planning to return home on 27 September and had return tickets.

They were detained at passport control and held for three days in a space of about 6 square metres unsuited for holding people for any length of time. For more than 24 hours they had no possibility of getting hot water to make up the baby food mixture and nobody took the food which the family’s relatives who were meeting them tried to give.

Neither the family nor their lawyer was given a reason for their being detained and not allowed to enter Ukraine.

The family knows Farsi and Dar and was not provided with an interpreter. Their lawyer, K. Prokonova, from the Social Action Centre was on a number of occasions refused permission to see them.

After 24 hours Z, who is in her fourth month of pregnancy felt ill and was called a doctor who indicated that she needed a medical examination and hospitalization. Quite shockingly the border guard service refused to allow this.

The family’s treatment at the airport had no legal grounds and was an undoubted violation of Article 29 of Ukraine’s Constitution (the right to liberty and personal security); Article 3 (prohibition of torture and ill-treatment); Article 5 (the right to liberty), Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family life) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Social Action Centre’s information suggests that the border guard service was planning to carry out a “voluntary-compulsory” deportation of the family to Afghanistan at their expense. This was despite, despite the fact that Ms Z;s state of health had worsened due to the conditions they were held in. The recommendations of the doctor were ignored despite the clear risk to the pregnant woman and her child, not to mention the gruelling nature of the flight which the border guards had chosen, this due to last 15 hours.

The family was allowed into the country only after an application was made to the European Court of Human Rights, and following the intervention of the UNHCR, the Human Rights Ombudsperson and numerous phone calls to the airport from people informed of the situation.

The Social Action Centre promises to follow the situation closely. It points out that this is by no means the first such case where people have been stopped and plans made to deport them. 

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