Parliament introduces new rules for foreign nationals and stateless persons
On 5 April the Verkhovna Rada tightened migration legislation through amendments to the laws regulating the status of foreign nationals and stateless persons on Ukrainian territory. These increase the number of grounds allowing deportation, as well as the fines for exceeding time limits for registration. Specialists consider that the amendments do not meet international standards.
Amendments were made to the Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Nationals and Stateless Persons, the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Offences. Some of the amendments were suggested by the President and taken into account by parliament.
Most tighten the rules for entry and for being in Ukraine. Entry can now be refused to those who have discredited the country, as well as those not able to finance their stay. On the same grounds foreigners living in Ukraine can be deported.
The list of grounds for deportation has been increased. This can be that a person who came to Ukraine to study or walk did not appear within the designated time frame at their place of study or work. The period during which they would be forced to leave the country has also been reduced from 30 days to 5. It is however stipulated that a person cannot be deported to a country where he could be subjected to torture, or where his life could be in danger.
The sanctions for illegally smuggling foreigners across the border have also been tightened. If before such actions carried a sentence of between 2 to 5 years imprisonment, this is now from 3 to 8.
Infringements of the rules and time limits for registration now carry a fine from 200 to 500 times the minimum wage before tax (from 3, 400 to 8, 500 UAH), as against 20-40 times before.
The right-wing party VO Svoboda which proposes in its political programme to deprive naturalized Ukrainians of their citizens if they commit a crime considers that the measures are not enough. Their spokesperson, A. Mozhnyk, asked what kind of tightening they were seeing when the borders with Russia and Belarus are open, with the main flow of migrants through them. He also claims that the main problem with migration legislation lies in “bribes within the MIA system and the lack of openness in the system for granting Ukrainian citizenship”.
The Press Secretary for the UNHCR in Ukraine, Maxim Butkevych expressed regret that Ukraine had not heeded UNHCR recommendations regarding the document. “The law in its present form does not draw Ukraine closer to European or international standards in the area of human rights protection and rather poses a threat of human rights violations for people seeking asylum in Ukraine”.
Iryna Fedorovych, Coordinator of the Social Action Centre of the Without Borders Project agrees. She says that the law can be used to “threaten and encroach upon the rights of foreigners”. “The authorities should not huff and puff, demonstrating how well they’re resolving the problem of migrants, but study international experience on this issue”.