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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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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

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

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

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Ukraine: Escape to Kyiv

Fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine has brought destruction and displacement to the towns of Debaltseve, Avdiivka and Svitlodar. Liubov, pictured, recalls the terror experienced by her family.
Ukraine: Displaced from homePlay video

Ukraine: Displaced from home

In the southern region of Ukraine, near the city of Mariupol, a number of small villages found themselves under attack. Homes were destroyed and for some elderly people staying in their homes was no longer possible.