PRESS-RELEASE: The UN Refugee Agency condemns refoulement of a refugee to Russian Federation

Press release published by UNHCR (16.8.2012):

Kyiv (Ukraine) – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees condemns the extradition of the refugee from Russian Federation (Republic of Ingushetia) that took place on 15 August 2012 in breach of national and international law.

The refugee was recognized by UNHCR under its mandate in March 2012; in June 2012 he was granted refugee status by the EU member-state, who accepted him for resettlement on its territory.  This means that both UNHCR and the EU member-state have reached the conclusion that this refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution in his country of origin.  Forcibly returning him to that country exposes him to unacceptable risks of serious human rights violations.

This individual’s application for refugee status in Ukraine was pending decision of the State Migration Service.

On 15 August, the lawyer received confirmation of his permission granted by the General Prosecutor’s Office to visit the refugee in detention in Kharkiv and travelled from Kyiv to visit him. However, when the lawyer arrived at the Kharkiv SIZO on 16 August, he was informed by SIZO officials that the refugee had been extradited to his country of origin on the previous day.

UNHCR has repeatedly urged the Ukrainian authorities to adhere to their international obligations and refrain from his extradition, which in this case constitutes refoulementRefoulement is considered a grave violation of international refugee law and national legislation because it involves the expulsion of an individual to a territory where his life or freedom would be threatened.  The obligation to respect the principle of non-refoulement as provided for under international refugee and human rights law takes precedence over any duty to extradite on the basis of a bilateral or multilateral extradition agreement.

UNHCR is appalled by this blatant violation of the key principle of refugee protection.  Mr. Oldrich Andrysek, UNHCR Regional Representative emphasized: “This incident illustrates that 10 years after Ukraine acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention, refugees still cannot enjoy protection from persecution in Ukraine. Moreover, we continue to observe the practice of deliberate violation of provisions of both national and international law.”

In line with its supervisory role of the 1951 Convention, UNHCR expects to receive a full explanation from authorities regarding Ukraine’s failure to abide by key international obligations.

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