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«Are they asking? Give them!»

Ukraine: Refugee is imprisoned again because he is a refugee

On 2 March 2011 in the premises of the Kyiv City Migration Service (KMS), right after receiving a rejection in refugee status from that authority, a refugee Denis Solopov was detained by police. Migration Service where refugees are supposed to come and ask for protection turned out to be a trap, where they are caught on demand of their persecutors.

Denis Solopov came to Ukraine in order to seek asylum from persecution by the authorities of the Russian Federation and, as it is required by the Law of Ukraine «On Refugees», filed an application for refugee status. Last week he came to the office of Migration Service to extend the term of validity of his asylum seeker’s certificate — again in accordance with the requirements of the refugee status determination procedure in Ukraine. According to the information received by the «No Borders» Project, staff of the Migration Service refused to extend this document for him several times under different excuses («come later, come to us at 2pm tomorrow sharp, the person in charge of your case is not in the office right now»). After all Denis was told that a determination concerning his asylum application was now ready and asked to come on 2 March 2011.

On 2 March 2011 in the afternoon connection with Denis interrupted. In the evening of the same day he called his friends to tell that he was detained at Solomensky District Department of the Ministry of Interior in Kyiv. Later we were able to find out from the police that Denis was detained because his name was placed on the International Wanted List by the authorities of the Russian Federation who on political grounds accused him in committing a crime — which was exactly the reason why sought asylum in Ukraine.

On 4 March 2011 a court hearing at which it was supposed to be decided if he shoud remain in detention pending the receipt of the official request for his extradition to the Russian Federation or be released took place. Solomensky District Court of the city of Kyiv decided to keep Denis in detention for the next 40 days. The arguments which the defense counsel put forward included that Solopov’s extradition is impossible and thus detention pending such extradition is unlawful because there is no final decision of Ukrainian national authorities concerning Denis’ asylum application; Denis is under protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) because he was recognized as a «mandate refugee» by the UNHCR Office in Kyiv; and in case of his extradition to Russia he will face a real risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. Neither of them impressed or even were noted by the Ukrainian «Justice» at all. Instead in its decision that legitimized continued detention of Denis Solopov Solomensky Court noted that it did not see any circumstances that would prevent his extradition to Russia.

Now the case will be handled by the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine: this authority that is supposed to consider all the documents which will be provided by Russian authorities to justify extradition of Denis Solopov from Ukraine, it is also competent to establish if there are any circumstances that would make such extradition impossible — it is up to it now to authorize or refuse extradition of Denis to Russia taking into account all relevant considerations.

The fact that Denis was detained by Ukrainian police because his name was put on International Wanted List testifies about the desire of Russian authorities to continue his persecution, which he earlier managed to escape. Today’s decision of the Solomensky district Court of the city of Kyiv shows: nowadays even the mere fact of asking Ukrainian authorities for asylum may result in a refugee getting a prison term instead of protection.

Background information

According to the Law of Ukraine «On Refugees» a special competent body of the central government is responsible to consider applications for refugee status. During long period of time the State Committee on Nationalities and Religions had performed this function and oblast level Migration Services that were subordinated to it took asylum applications in and handled them. In December 2010, in accordance with the Presidential Decree the State Committee for Nationalities and Religions was closed down. All questions concerning migration, including those pertaining to asylum status determination, were placed under the responsibility of the State Migration Service that was yet to be created. The Decree prescribed that this new executive authority shall be subordinated to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and coordinated via the Ministry of Interior.

Currently the process of State Migration Service creation and liquidation of the State Committee on Nationalities and Religions is underway. To what extend the authority which will be in practice subordinated to the Ministry of Interior can guarantee security to refugees? What may it mean in practice to those who arrived to Ukraine in order to seek asylum and need protection from persecution? As the experience of those who the «No Borders» Project was trying to assist in their applications for asylum before Ukrainian authorities — this reform process may mean nothing good. What happened to Denis Solopov is unfortunately just another demonstration of the complete and utter failure of the asylum system in Ukraine to protect refugees.