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The UN Refugee Agency condemns refoulement of a refugee to Russian Federation

Press Releases, 17 August 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 refoulement. Refoulement 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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Advocacy

Advocacy is a key element in UNHCR activities to protect people of concern.

Displacement in Georgia

Tens of thousands of civilians are living in precarious conditions, having been driven from their homes by the crisis in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia.

On the morning of August 12, the first UNHCR-chartered plane carrying emergency aid arrived in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the first UN assistance to arrive in the country since fighting broke out the previous week. The airlift brought in 34 tonnes of tents, jerry cans, blankets and kitchen sets from UNHCR's central emergency stockpile in Dubai. Items were then loaded onto trucks at the Tbilisi airport for transport and distribution.

A second UNHCR flight landed in Tbilisi on August 14, with a third one expected to arrive the following day. In addition, two UNHCR aid flights are scheduled to leave for Vladikavkaz in the Russian Federation the following week with mattresses, water tanks and other supplies for displaced South Ossetians.

Working with local partners, UNHCR is now providing assistance to the most vulnerable and needy. These include many young children and family members separated from one another. The situation is evolving rapidly and the refugee agency is monitoring the needs of the newly displaced population, which numbered some 115,000 on August 14.

Posted on 15 August 2008

Displacement in Georgia

Nansen Award presentation for the late Senator Edward Kennedy

UNHCR's annual Nansen Refugee Award was posthumously awarded to Senator Edward Kennedy at a ceremony in Washington DC on October 29 for his life-long commitment to refugee rights. Kennedy's wife, Victoria, accepted the award on behalf of her late husband. In presenting the award, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, praised the "vision and commitment" of Senator Kennedy in his support for the displaced.

The prize money of US$100,000 will be donated to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, where it will be used to train the next generation of leaders dedicated to the cause of refugee advocacy. The Nansen Award is given to an individual or organization for outstanding work on behalf of refugees. It was created in 1954 in honour of Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian polar explorer, scientist and the first global High Commissioner for Refugees.

Nansen Award presentation for the late Senator Edward Kennedy

Statelessness and Women

Statelessness can arise when citizenship laws do not treat men and women equally. Statelessness bars people from rights that most people take for granted such as getting a job, buying a house, travelling, opening a bank account, getting an education, accessing health care. It can even lead to detention.

In some countries, nationality laws do not allow mothers to confer nationality to their children on an equal basis as fathers and this creates the risk that these children will be left stateless. In others, women cannot acquire, change or retain their nationality on an equal basis as men. More than 40 countries still discriminate against women with respect to these elements.

Fortunately, there is a growing trend for states to remedy gender discrimination in their nationality laws, as a result of developments in international human rights law and helped by vigorous advocacy from women's rights groups. The women and children depicted here have faced problems over nationality.

Statelessness and Women

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