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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.

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