Ukraine: UNHCR condemns murder of Nigerian

Briefing Notes, 3 June 2008

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 3 June 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR today joined some 30 other organizations in condemning the recent murder of a Nigerian national in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, the latest in a series of attacks against foreigners in the country.

The victim, who was known to UNHCR after approaching our office in Kyiv two years ago seeking legal assistance, was found on the evening of May 29 in the Solomenskiy district of the city suffering numerous knife wounds. Police said the motive for the fatal attack was unknown.

UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration and some 30 other groups belonging to the Diversity Initiative human rights coalition have urged Ukrainian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of the killing, including the possibility it was racially motivated. The group asked to be kept informed of the outcome of the investigation.

Over the past two years, human rights groups have reported increasing violent attacks on foreigners and non-Ukrainians in Kyiv and elsewhere in the country. UNHCR and IOM have repeatedly expressed concern over unprovoked attacks, beatings and verbal abuse aimed at asylum seekers, refugees, migrants, foreigners and minorities in Ukraine. According to anecdotal evidence collected by the Diversity Initiative from victims, media sources and non-governmental organizations, there have been at least 40 such attacks so far in 2008, including four murders. In January, a 19-year old asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo was found stabbed to death and in March a 39-year old Sierra Leonean asylum seeker was also stabbed to death.

Background: Ukraine started implementing its first Refugee law in 1996. Since then, some 5,459 asylum seekers have been granted refugee status. At the beginning of this year, 2,277 refugees were living in Ukraine. The overwhelming majority of persons granted refugee status were in the years 1997-2001, with the trend then declining. In 2002-2007, 285 persons were granted refugee status last year 33 refugees were recognised compared to 65 in 2006 and 49 in 2005.

Just over half, 51 percent, of recognized refugees originate from Afghanistan, 29 percent from the former Soviet Union Republics and 13 percent (293 persons) from Africa.

There is an upward trend in the number of people making asylum claims in the Ukraine in 2007 there were 2,272 claims compared to 2,075 the previous year and 1,765 in 2005.

Ukraine acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol in 2002.

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Displacement, Disability and Uncertainty in Ukraine

To date, around 275,500 people have been displaced by fighting in Ukraine. They include some who live with disability, including Viktoria, aged 41, and her husband, Aleksandr, 40, who both have cerebral palsy. Life is difficult enough under normal circumstances for the couple, who also have two sons; 20-year-old Dima, and Ivan aged 19 months. Now it has become a real struggle.

At the end of July, shelling in the eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk forced Viktoria and Aleksandr to flee to the neighbouring Kharkiv region. It wasn't long before Viktoria's medication ran out. In a desperate bid to help, Aleksandr called the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation, which found them transportation and accommodation in Kharkiv.

From there, they were taken to the Promotei Summer Camp, located near the town of Kupiansk. The forest, fresh air and a lake near the camp offered a perfect setting to spend the summer. But, like 120 other internally displaced people (IDP) living there, all Viktoria and Aleksandr could think about was home. They had hoped to return by the Autumn. But it soon came and went.

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