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UNHCR condemns murder of Nigerian in Ukraine

News Stories, 3 June 2008

© UNHCR//N.Prokopchuk
African refugees sing at a temporary accommodation centre for asylum seekers in Odessa. There have been a series of attacks against foreigners in Ukraine this year.

GENEVA, June 3 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Tuesday 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 the agency's 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 from numerous knife wounds." UNHCR spokeswoman, Jennifer Pagonis, told journalists in Geneva.

Police said the motive for the fatal attack was unknown. UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) 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 an increasing number of 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.

Pagonis noted that 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 this year, including four murders. In January, a 19-year-old asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo was found stabbed to death and in March a 39-year-old Sierra Leonean asylum seeker was also stabbed to death.

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 recognized 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 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.




UNHCR country pages

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.

Today, it is still not safe to go back to Donetsk. Moreover, the camp has not been prepared for the coming winter and the administration has asked people to leave by October 15. Neither Viktoria nor Aleksandr know where they and their young son can go next. The following photographs of the couple and their youngest child were taken by Emine Ziyatdinova.

Displacement, Disability and Uncertainty in Ukraine

Ukraine: Sorting through the Wreckage

Conflict has changed the city of Sloviansk in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. "We used to have such a beautiful, calm, tidy city," says Angelina, a social worker. Today, it is full of destroyed homes and infrastructure, a casualty of the fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian forces. More than half of the inhabitants - some 70,000 people - fled the city during the combat earlier this year. In recent weeks, with the city back under government control, some 15,000 have returned. But they face many challenges. Maria, aged 80, returned to a damaged home and sleeps in the kitchen with her family. She worries about getting her pension. The UN refugee agency has transported several tons of hygiene items and kitchen equipment to the city for distribution to those who lost their homes. Photojournalist Iva Zimova recently accompanied UNHCR staff as they visited more than 100 families to give put aid.

Ukraine: Sorting through the Wreckage

Ukraine: Helping Hands Play video

Ukraine: Helping Hands

Ukrainian individuals and organizations, like Everybody Can Help, have been helping people displaced by the conflict in eastern Ukraine with clothing, food and other aid items. The volunteers at Everybody Can Help have helped more than 25,000 people.
Ukraine: Destruction in DonetskPlay video

Ukraine: Destruction in Donetsk

Alexander Kovalenko is one of the last people still living on his street in Donetsk, where the conflict in eastern Ukraine has left a trail of destruction. His home was struck by six shells and the roof was blown off. Now Alexander lives amid the rubble, in a little room he has fixed up, waiting for peace to return.
Ukraine: Returning and RebuildingPlay video

Ukraine: Returning and Rebuilding

The small town of Nikishino stood on the frontline of the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Two weeks into the ceasefire, 200 people have returned there determined to rebuild.