Deportation and Refoulement Concerns


More than 5,000 people were deported from Ukraine in 2004. Of that total, more than 2,000 were deported to Asian countries, mainly China but also to India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and more than 3,000 to countries of the former Soviet Union.280 In the first six months of 2005, 2,346 persons were deported from Ukraine, a 70 percent increase on the same period in 2004.281

Failed asylum seekers and irregular migrants are liable to deportation from Ukraine. The legal mechanism for deportation is a deportation order issued by the migration service, Ministry of Internal Affairs officials or Border Guard Service officials.282 Under Ukrainian law, such an order can be challenged in court, and the appeal has a suspensive effect on the removal decision.283 In practice, no such remedy exists.

Officials in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Border Service interviewed by Human Rights Watch were unaware that deportation orders could be challenged in court.284 They were also unable to identify the institution tasked with review of the legality of deportation orders, or with evaluating and making final determinations regarding nonrefoulement claims under Article 3 of the U.N. Convention against Torture or the European Convention on Human Rights.285

The failure of Ukrainian authorities to afford migrants and asylum seekers basic procedural guarantees may result in their return to states where they may be subject to persecution or the risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Particularly, the application of the strict application deadlines in Article 9 of the Refugee Law combined with the lack of protection against refoulement to torture put refugees under an undue danger of being deported back to their potential (or actual) persecutors.

An estimated four hundred persons (mostly from Afghanistan and Chechnya) were refouled during 2004. Some of them were deported without having had access to any procedures: they could not challenge their arrest, detention or deportation, and had no opportunity to claim asylum. Others were not able to lodge asylum claims or to meet the tight deadlines for asylum claims under Article 9 of the Refugee Law. Those who were able to bring claims often had those claims rejected by the migration service on procedural grounds, without their applications having been considered on the merits.

A significant number of deportations originate in western Ukraine, particularly in Transcarpathia region. For the first quarter of 2005, out of 287 foreigners detained in the Pavshino detention facility in the region, 134 had been issued a decision for return.286 The head of the regional border guard service, Major Civiljiov, told Human Rights Watch, “Returning is the main option, it is impossible to keep such quantities here.”287 UNHCR is extremely concerned about ongoing restrictions to UNHCR and its partners’ access to Chop border guard detention facility in the same region, preventing facilitation of applications for asylum. Chechens are liable to deportation within two to three days of their initial detention.288 K.K. and K.Z., Chechen asylum seekers, reported that they fled Muhachevo detention center when authorities there told them that they planned to hand them over to the FSB, the Russian federal security service. K.K. told Human Rights Watch, “They told me, ‘We will transfer you to the FSB.’ I didn’t want this. I was afraid of what would happen to me in the hands of the FSB.” 289

F., an eighteen-year-old Iranian, was sent by the border guard service in Transcarpathia to the Iranian Embassy in Kyiv after three months of detention in Pavshino. Fearing deportation, he failed to report to the embassy. He told Human Rights Watch: “I know that if I am deported to my home country, I will be severely punished.”290

The head of the migration service in Uzghorod admitted, “We can’t exclude the possibility that people who are in need of protection are deported, particularly Chechens, because the border guards don’t inform [us] who is deported and where they are sent. Particularly for Chechens, they are immediately deported from Ukraine and [the] migration service doesn’t have any idea that this happens. They find out post factum at the end of the year.”291

280 Human Rights Watch interview with Gen. Boris Marchenko, State Border Service of Ukraine, Kyiv, April 6, 2005.

281 BBC Monitoring Ukraine and Baltics, “Ukraine catches 6,500 illegal migrants in first half of 2005,” BBC, June 24, 2005, Source: UNIAN news agency.

282 Government Committee for the Defense of State Borders of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Order No. 477/877 “On the establishment of the procedure of transfer of foreign citizens and stateless persons who have violated the Ukrainian legislation on state borders and on the legal status of foreigners, by divisions of the border guards, their reception by agencies of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, their detention and expulsion beyond the State borders”.  According to article 2.1.4 of this regulation, territorial internal affairs departments are responsible for the deportation of stateless persons and foreigners who arrived illegally in Ukraine. 

283 Article 32 of the Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens and Stateless People.

284 Human Rights Watch interviews with Alexander Anatolivich Malyi and Viktor Danieliuc, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Kyiv, April 4, 2005; and Gen. Boris Marchenko and Maj. Sergey Luginchenko, deputy head and head of international relations department of State Border Service of Ukraine, Kyiv, April 6, 2005.

285 Ukraine ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, on February 24, 1987 and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms on September 11, 1997.

286 Human Rights Watch interview with Maj. Oleg Evgenyevich Civiljiov, head of Transcarpathia Border Guard Unit, Uzghorod, Ukraine, March 28, 2005.

287 Human Rights Watch interview with Maj. Oleg Evgenyevich Civiljiov, head of Transcarpathia Border Guard Unit, Uzghorod, Ukraine, March 28, 2005.

288 Human Rights Watch correspondence with confidential sources, July 26, 2005 (on file with Human Rights Watch).

289 Human Rights Watch interviews with K.K. and K.Z., Chechens, Kyiv, March 24, 2005.

290 Human Rights Watch interview with F., eighteen-year-old Iranian, Kyiv, March 25, 2005.

291 Human Rights Watch interview with Mikola Towt, head of Uzghorod migration service, Uzghorod, Ukraine, March 30, 2005.