Watch out for skinheads and the police
Yury Nuzhny writes about a phone call he received from B, an asylum seeker from Guinea who asked him to tell people about the latest of many encounters with the Kharkiv police. Perhaps, he says, the people at the top in the police don’t know what’s happening and when they find out, will punish those responsible.
B. has lived in Ukraine for a number of years. He is renting a flat with a friend, a student from another country.
They were both at home when police officers rang the doorbell. They are accustomed to cooperating with the police and opened the door.
The “police officers” produced no documents but set to rummaging around the place, their only “explanation” being “we’re looking for drugs – all foreigners sell drugs”.
B and his friend tried to argue. The only response was threats, insults and foul language. When B. tried to phone an NGO which gives advice and legal assistance to asylum seekers, the police simply took his mobile phone away.
They found no drugs, but did “remove” 200 UAH that they found. Leaving, they returned the phone and strongly hinted that attempts to complain would end very badly.
B. approached human rights workers who were able to establish that the two men had been visited by patrol officers from the Kievsky Police Station in Kharkiv. B. did not however wish to make a formal complaint. He said that the police virtually never punish their own, but they can find ways of punishing him: beating him up, planting drugs, deporting him.
He says that the police constantly pester foreigners, supposedly to check their documents. He said that they ALWAYS take money even when all documents are in place and correct.
He says that when he arrived in Kharkiv, friends told him to worry about skinheads and the police. Yet he’s only seen skinheads a few times, whereas the police are everywhere. And they, he says, are always abusive.
The author writes that it is Kharkiv which has gained notoriety for xenophobic behaviour from the police, whereas in other cities they’re not so bad, and in Odessa you can walk around the streets without fear, even if you don’t have your documents on you.
B. says that foreigners don’t want to visit friends in Kharkiv and asks how Kharkiv is planning to host Euro 2012 if the people who are supposed to protect you from crime pose a permanent threat to foreigners.