Concern over plight of Somali asylum seekers in Ukraine
The Ukrainian Refugee Council has issued an open appeal to the President, Minister of Internal Affairs, Head of the Migration Service and others calling on them to take all measures needed to regulate the situation of Somali asylum seekers presently in Ukraine.
It explains that a group of people from Somali, imprisoned due to their unregulated status have declared a hunger strike in the Zhuravychy Temporary Unit for Foreign Nationals in the Volyn region. The Council’s information suggestions that there are over 60 Somalis at Zhuravychy and that they went on hunger strike in the first half of January. There may be women and minors among them, and victims of torture in their country of origin. The hunger strike came after a number of Somalis were detained at the end of 2011 in Vinnytsa by the police, and in the Transcarpathian region by border guards.
According to their information, the detention and court hearings in Vinnytsa took place with numerous infringements. They were not provided with an adequate interpreter, effective defence during the first instance court hearings, nor the right to directly take part in the appeal examination. This impeded review of the first instance court’s unjust rulings, the Council asserts.
Some of the detained were in the refugee status application procedure while others cannot make the relevant application from the detention centre due to the effective incapacity of the State Migration Service office in the Volyn region.
In accordance with the amendments to the law on the legal status of foreign nationals and stateless persons introduced last year, the Somalis were effectively detained in conditions of effective imprisonment for the maximum period possible – 12 months.
The Council notes that for a long time people from Somali have not been able to receive refugee status in Ukraine, despite the general situation in that country and the fact that the UNHCR has concluded that people should not be returned there. In June 2011 the European Court of Human Rights stated that any person from Somalia was in need of international protection and that their return to Mogadishu would constitute a violation of Article 3 of the Convention (prohibition of torture),
The Council calls on Ukraine to provide protection for people who have fled persecution and demands that the media be given access to the detention centre. It calls on the UNHCR and the Human Rights Ombudsperson to send their people to find out what is going on.