UNHCR report says Ukraine needs to improve its asylum system

Briefing Notes, 26 July 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 26 July 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

A UNHCR report released today, while acknowledging significant progress in recent years, says Ukraine's asylum system still requires fundamental improvements. It needs to offer better protection against refoulement and to improve the fairness and efficiency of the hearings process. As a result of these concerns, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is advising other states not to return asylum-seekers to Ukraine at this time.

UNHCR has evaluated Ukraine's asylum system as part of its mandate to monitor implementation of the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol, and as part of a series of studies of asylum systems in Europe, including those in Hungary and Serbia. Among issues the assessment covers are access to Ukraine's asylum system, refugee status determination and the treatment of unaccompanied minors, and how people of concern are received, housed or detained in Ukraine. The report makes specific recommendations on how to strengthen the asylum system. Ukraine has declared its intention to synchronize its asylum policy and laws with international practices as well as in the context of its negotiations with the European Union on visa liberalization.

UNHCR believes Ukraine has made progress in several areas, including access to asylum procedures and the reception of unaccompanied and separated children. Basic improvements are still needed, though, in guaranteeing effective protection against asylum-seekers being sent back to the countries from which they fled. There is also a need to create conditions for the transparent and fair review of asylum applications, including for instance enhancing the independence of decision-makers. Adequate reception capacity and resources for asylum-seekers are still lacking, and access to, and conditions in, the country's two temporary accommodation centres remain below established standards.

UNHCR remains ready to work with the Ukrainian Government to help implement the report's recommendations to develop its relatively new asylum system. We have already prepared draft amendments on documentation, medical care and employment for asylum-seekers. And draft amendments on detention designed to bring Ukraine's laws in line with European standards are already before parliament. UNHCR is ready to help Ukraine give asylum-seekers and refugees real protection as well as a real chance to integrate into and contribute to their host country.

UNHCR's new report "Ukraine as a Country of Asylum: Observations on the Situation of Asylum-Seekers and Refugees in Ukraine" is available online at http://www.refworld.org/docid/51ee97344.html

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Kyiv, Nina Sorokopud on mobile: +38 050 310 17 67
  • In Geneva, Daniel MacIsaac on mobile: +41 79 200 76 17



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.