The Forgotten? International refugees in Ukraine live life on a breadline

foodRecently, 70 or so refugees in Latoritsa refugee camp in Mukachevo (Western Ukraine) went on hunger strike, they protested against the conditions under which they are held and most notably against their malnutrition. The inhabitants of the camp entirely depend on the support they receive from the camp administration: a food package in the value of UAH 210 (about Euro 13) for two weeks.

According to Ukrainian law, recognized refugees get a one-time support of UAH 17 (approximately Euro 1) as starting grant. The alternative would be employment but because no Ukrainian language classes are provided it is not surprising that they cannot find work. Most of the 70 residents in the camp (about 20 single men, the others members of families) have a so-called “dovidka”, a residence permit for people during an on-going asylum procedure, which has to be prolonged  every 30 days. However, it was reported to BMPU that sometimes the prolongation of the “dovidka” is delayed for longer periods of time due to ineffective bureaucracy. This has various serious effects. First, people fear controls and arrests by the local police and therefore hardly ever leave the camp. Second, without a valid ”dovidka” they are not handed out the food parcels. And third, a “dovidka” is the precondition for accessing to the official labor market but in reality no one has a job anyway, including the ones who have already received a status.

Apart from these meager food packages asylum seekers receive no other benefits. In case they require any other items, like tooth brush or a bus ticket to even attend their court hearing they are compelled to sell goods from their packages. Also the medical support has been criticized as woefully inadequate. As was reported to BMPU, a nurse who visits the camp twice per week hands out nearly always the same tablets. But if the residents of the camp should go to the local hospital because of more serious health problems not only are there communication problems (the doctors do not speak English) but also are sometimes confronted with racist prejudices and attitudes. Even cases of racially motivated violence have been reported to the BMPU: As was reported to BMPU, two dark-skinned refugees were recently attacked at the local market and received seriously injuries. The “solution” proposed by the camp administration: ”Do not leave the camp”. Another serious problem is, that in Ukraine asylum-seekers and refugees do not have a right to accommodation which means that the residents of the camp are afraid of being kicked out, if they complain “too loud”. Furthermore, there is the structural problem that the camp administration is working for the same state body (State Migration Service) like the persons who are actually deciding on the asylum applications. Therefore the camp residents fear that complaints can have negative effects on their asylum cases.

Finally, as result of the recent protests the residents of the camp were visited by a representative of UNHCR Ukraine – this raised high hopes amongst the refugees. But the results of the meeting we discouraging. BMPU was told that neither UNHCR nor their local partner organization NEEKA can or want to change the situation. The “solution” for the language problem was to go to the market and study the language autodidactically. A participant of the meeting summarized it as follows: „I am only part of a business plan. Now we gave up all our hope. What is our future [in Ukraine]? You can only survive here, nothing else.”

The BMPU is aware of the highly problematic financial situation Ukraine is currently facing, of the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian IDPs the Ukrainian state must care for and the important contribution the UNHCR makes to this. However, neither should go on the expenses of the small number of international refugees for which Ukraine remains responsible under international law and which fall under the mandate of the UNHCR.

Background

It is not that there is no money for catering for international refugees. In recent years, the EU has spent millions of Euros (see the list below), though has mainly been spend on the expansion of the detention capacity and on enhancing border security. From the beginning of the 1990s, the EU has been facilitating the implementation of a comprehensive migration regime in Ukraine, not only by transferring knowledge on so-called “migration management” but also by direct financial support. For instance, in the context of the adoption of the readmission agreement between Ukraine and the EU in 2008, the EU allocated Euro 30 million for establishing new detention centres (there undocumented migrants can be detained for up to 12 months) and new so-called “Temporary Holding Facilities” (THFs) run by the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine where irregular migrants can be detained for up to 10 days. For the preparation of this immense expansion of detention capacity for irregular (transit) migrants in Ukraine, a British consulting company, ARUP, received Euro 4 million. All of this money was provided in spite of the fact that not even half of the already existing detention capacity is actually used. This capacity was also built up and operated with the financial support of the EU and in course of various IOM projects: CBMM Phase 1 and 2 – total budget Euro 7.2 million, GUMIRA – total budget Euro 2.5 million, and SIREADA – total budget Euro 2.3 million. These figures clearly demonstrate where the actual priority of Europe’s migration policy in Ukraine lies: deterrence and detention. This must be understood as a clear warning to international migrants and refugees already in Ukraine not to try to irregularly cross the borders into the neighboring EU-countries or if they fail they will be punished by being detained for 12 months in EU supported and financed detention centres.

In addition, some projects were also aiming at improving the national asylum-system and refugees integration. For example, UNHCR states on its website, garnished with pictures of “happy” and “well integrated” refugees:

happyAs of 1 January 2012 the Project Local Integration of Refugees in Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine has entered its Phase II. It serves as a logical continuation of the efforts commenced by governments, NGOs, refugees themselves and the UNHCR in the Phase I of the Local Integration Project. The overall budget of the Phase II of the Local Integration Project comprises of about 1,4 mln Euro. The project is co-funded by European Union and UNHCR. General outputs of the Phase II of the Local Integration Project are:

  • Enhanced institutional, administrative and professional capacities of government authorities to administrate socio-economic issues related to refugees and asylum seekers in each country.
  • Refugees are assisted to integrate in the chosen country and to become self-reliant; decreased dependence on outside assistance; enhanced capacity of refugees to support their communities.
  • Improved capacity of local NGOs in Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine to implement current and future refugee related actions.
  • Increased tolerance towards refugees and asylum seekers; raised awareness on integration needs of refugees in Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine.

On the occasion of the recent protests by the residents of the open refugee camp in Mukachevo, BMPU talked to some of the protesters. These drew a completely different picture of the actual integration perspectives. The BMPU’s visit in Mukachevo illustrated that these efforts do not show much practical results on the ground. We call on the Ukrainian authorities and on UNHCR Ukraine to do more than preparing good looking but deceptive websites, to not forget the international refugees in the more remote regions of the country, to live up to their international obligations and mandates and provide benefits and services to refugees that enable them a humane existence.

 

Appendix

Additional detention capacity:

  • 2008 – 2016: Project title: READMIT (building up/refurbishment of detention centres/THFs). Implementing partner: Ukrainian state. EU contribution: Euro 30.000.000.

IOM:

  • 2005 – 2008: Project title: CBMM Capacity Building of Migration Management – Ukraine (Phase 1 and Phase 2). Implementing partner: IOM. EU contribution: Euro 6.500.000.
  • 2006 – 2008: Combating Trafficking in Human Beings in Ukraine and Moldova. Implementing partner: IOM. EU contribution: Euro 1.700.000.
  • 2006 – 2013: HUREMAS – Reinforcing the SBGSU human resources management Joint EU-US project (Phase 1 and 2). Implementing partner: IOM. EU contribution: Euro 1.000.000.
  • 2009 – 2010: Project title: GUMIRA – Technical Cooperation and Capacity Building for the Governments of Ukraine and Moldova for the Implementation of the Readmission agreements with the EU. Implementing partner: IOM. EU contribution: Euro 2.000.000 .
  • 2011 – 2013: Project title: SERIADA (GUMIRA follow-up). Implementing partner: IOM. EU contribution: Euro 2.400.000.

UNHCR:

  • 2006 – 2009: Söderköping Process/The Cross-Border Cooperation. Implementing partner: UNHCR. EU contribution: 2.200.000 Euro.
  • 2009 – 2011: Project title: Local Integration of Refugees in Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine (Phase 1). Implementing partner: UNHCR. EU contribution: 2.000.000 Euro.
  • 2011 – 2013: Project title: Local Integration of Refugees in Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine (Phase 2). Implementing partner: UNHCR. EU contribution: 1.100.000 Euro.
  • 2009 – 2013: Project title: Regional Protection Support Project in Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. Implementing partner: UNHCR. EU contribution: 4.500.000 Euro.

ARUP:

  • 2009 – 2014: Consultancy to set up Custody Centres and Temporary Holding Facilities for Irregular Migrants in Ukraine. Implementing partner: ARUP. EU Contribution: Euro 4.000.000.

ICMPD:

  • 2006 – 2008: Project title: Strengthening capacities and cooperation in the identification of forged and falsified documents in Ukraine. Implementing partner: ICMPD. EU contribution: 630.000 Euro.
  • 2008 – 2010: ERIT – Capacity Building and Technical Support to Ukrainian Authorities to Effectively Respond to Irregular Transit Migration. Implementing partner: ICMPD. EU contribution: 1.700.000 Euro.

Danish Refugee Council:

  • 2007 – 2009: Project title: Strengthening Asylum and Protection Capacity in Ukraine by Enhancing the Capacity of Governmental and Civil Society Stakeholders in a Participatory Approach and Crosssector Cooperation. Implementing partner: Danish Refugee Council. EU contribution: 430.000 Euro.
  • 2009 – 2011: Legal and Social Protection of Asylum Seeking and Refugee Children in Ukraine. Implementing partner: Danish Refugee Council. EU contribution: 960.000 Euro.

ECRE:

  • 2005 – 2008: Project title: The protection of refugees, asylum seekers and forced migrants. Implementing partner: ECRE. EU contribution: 530.000 Euro.
  • 2009 – 2011: Project title: Monitoring safe and dignified return and conditions of detention. Protecting the Rights of Asylum Seekers, Refugees and IDPs in Belarus, Moldova, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Implementing partner: ECRE. EU contribution: 650.000 Euro.

Caritas Austria:

  • 2006 – 2008: Project title: Enhancing Capacities in the Area of Protection and Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Zakarpattya / Western Ukraine. Implementing partner: Caritas Austria. EU contribution: 700.000 Euro.

 

Heat camera video Ukrainian/Hungarian border

The Hungarian news-website hvg.hu published a story about how border guards detected refugees getting into cars. The 7 migrants (Syrians, Afghan, Bangladeshi, Iraqi) and the two Ukrainian smugglers were caught a little bit later. The migrants asked for asylum.

 

BMPU media monitoring: Large family from Palestine “got lost” at the border in Transcarpathia

Source: http://www.ua-reporter.com/novosti/159330

23In Transcarpathia border guards of BS “Knyaginya” of Chop Detachment detained 7 citizens of Palestine, 5 of them were children. It was reported by the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine. In the course of realization of special actions on counteraction to illegal migration only for the last weekend border guards of Chop, Mostytskyi and Lvov Detachments detected 16 illegal migrants. All detainees intended to get to the countries of European Union in illegal way.

BMPU media monitoring: Violator was apprehended in Transcarpathia taking two little children over the border

Source: http://dpsu.gov.ua/ua/about/news/news_5195.htm

1-2In the frames of activities aimed on counteraction to illegal migration, border guards of Chop Detachment detected illegal migrants from Asia last weekend.

The man and two children – 6-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy were stopped by the law enforcement agents in the area of BS “Uzhgorod”. According to the words of the man, he and his children, who, by the way, were dressed in light clothes, were the migrants from Iran. No document was presented, however, he mentioned that they made their way to Slovakia, and from there they intended to get to Austria. The route through the border had been planned already in Iran by means of the Internet.

The border guards delivered the violators to the subdivision. In a result of medical examination it was established that the health state of the father and his children is satisfactory. So far, their personalities are under establishment. The further destiny of the detainees will be defined by the court.

 

Protest in Mukachevo open centre for asylum-seekers and refugees

In Transcarpatia two (open) Temporary Accommodation Centres (TACs) are existing: One is located in Mukachevo  (total capacity: 70 persons, 22 rooms), another one in Perechyn (total capacity: 50 persons, 18 rooms). Both centres are housing asylum-seekers and persons, who already received a residence permit based on their asylum application. Single men and women, unaccompanied minors and families are living  there (in Perechyn only families). The centres are run by the state migration service with the support of a local NGO, which is an UNHCR implementing partner.

On the 19th of September, the inhabitants of the Mukachevo centre started to protest by doing a hunger-strike. Their criticism was referring to:

1. Structural defects: In some rooms it is raining in because of holes in the roof.
2. Not enough food and bad quality of the food.
3. Bad health care, for example they are not allowed to call the ambulance.
4. Bad behaviour of some of the employed (for example they call black people “monkeys”).
5. The administration of the camp advised two Sudanese inhabitants not the leave the camp after 10 o-clock and refused to call the police and the ambulance, after the Sudanese had been beaten up by locals in the town.
6. No/low quality (of) language courses for the children.
7. Problems within the program, which should support them to open up small businesses.
8. Pressure to leave the camp without offering an alternative.

In the meantime, the inhabitants of the Mukachevo camp stopped their hunger strike and started talks with UNHCR. BMPU will continue to monitor the situation in Mukachevo and report on the next developments.

UNHCR: Number of displaced inside Ukraine more than doubles since early August to 260,000

Vincent Cochetel, director of UNHCR’s Europe Bureau, told journalists in Geneva that the number of people displaced inside Ukraine had more than doubled in the past four weeks. UNHCR estimates that 260,000 people were displaced as of Monday, compared to 117,000 in the first week of August.

 

Read more here.

2.8.2014: Slovakian policemen shot Transcarpathian smuggler

The smuggler did not react upon the warning shot of the Police on the territory of Slovakia, not far from Ukrainian-Slovakian border between the villages of Zboj and Novа Sedlica, and it cost him life.
On Saturday morning, not far away from the border to Transcarpathia, a Slovakian border patrol intended to stop a group of illegal migrants by warning shots, but there was no reaction on the side of the border violators. According to the information provided by the the website noviny.sk, after the second attempt a shoot-out started. One person of the group of border crossers took a gun and tried to shoot to policeman, but he failed and was shot by police. According to the information of the press-secretary of Sobrance Border Police, Agnessa Kopernytska, police investigates the case and no information can be given yet. “The weaponed smuggler of Ukrainian origin was shot in a shoot-up intending to cross the border illegally with 5 migrants” – the head of press-service of Ministry of Interior Ivan Netik reported to Mass Media concerning the incident. The illegal migrants were not injured. The Slovakian Ministry of Interior said that first aid was provided to the injured Ukrainian, but he died at the place of the incident. “I have already reported that after the beginning of Russian-Ukrainian crisis the smugglers became more aggressive, and the worst thing is that they began to be armed. I also have said that we cannot exclude that in the nearest future a situation will arise in which the armed conflict can end with health or life loss. And here it now happened”, Mr. Kalinyak stated. Negotiations on the incident between the Special Service of Slovakia, representatives of the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior and Ukrainian border guards continue. In total, since the beginning of 2014, the Slovak Department of Border Police and the Slovak Police on Foreigners’ Affairs prevented 35 cases of illegal border crossing from Ukraine to Slovakia. 107 foreigners were detained. The majority, 40 migrants were Afghan citizens, 18 were from Ukraine, 11 from Somalia, seven from Bangladesh and seven from Palestine.

Source

BMPU has serious doubts on the statements of the Slovak authorities:
1. Is is very unusual that Ukrainian smugglers are joining groups of irregular migrants to Slovakia. In the “normal” case, they are not leaving the territory of  Ukraine.

2. It is very unusual as well, that smugglers are carrying weapons. At least there haven’t been information on that in the Ukrainian media the last years and it can be assumed, that Ukrainian border guards would probably mention this fact in their press communication.

 

Ukrainian Refugees

иимссмчмссмчсAccording to UNHCR 155.800 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were registered in Ukraine on the 13th of August 2014. It can be assumed that the actual number is probably much higher, because a lot of IDPs do not register officially. The civil society, as well as state bodies are are taking care of their needs. Read more on their support in this UNHCR report. However, more and more voices accuse them for having fled instead of fighting against the separatists, what has now to be done by soldiers, border guards and volunteers from Western and Central Ukraine. Furthermore, thousands of refugees left the embattled areas to Russia. UNHCR estimates that more than 150.000 people have fled to Russia. But their number is difficult to estimate as well, as a lot of them do not register (Ukrainian citizens don’t need a visa for entering Russia) and there have always been a lot of working migrants.

The Kiew post has recently published three stories on Ukrainian refugees:

Journalist from the UK visited Ukraine in July

The European Union’s eastern frontier cuts through Selmentsi, a village on the border of Slovakia and Ukraine. On the Ukrainian side, the road leading to the checkpoint is lined with shops selling fake designer clothes. The villagers serving in the shops slip easily between Hungarian, Russian, Ukrainian and Slovakian, a legacy of the region’s contested history. Once part of the Habsburg Empire, this section of the Carpathian mountains was taken by the Soviet Union in 1945. A glance at a map shows why Stalin coveted it: across a span of just a few hundred kilometres, Transcarpathia borders Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland which is very convenient for an empire looking to keep its satellite states in check…

Read the full story here.

Report: Immigration detention and the rule of law

cover-rule-of-lawReport by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law: Immigration detention and the rule of law – National Report: Ukraine. Download the report here.

 

Recently published by BMPU: Report on Corruption in the Immigration, Detention and Asylum System of Ukraine

Published 2011 by BMPU: Access to Protection Denied – Refoulement of Refugees and Minors on the Eastern Borders of the EU

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