Europe: migrants stranded without protection at EU borders
29 June 2011

The potential for human rights abuse is real in the Ukraine
No other option: testimonies from asylum seekers living in Ukraine
"One of the main problems for refugees is that the country lacks clear asylum laws and is barely able to look after its own people, let alone foreigners'', says David Nazar, JRS Ukraine Director.
EU policies towards Ukraine neglect migrants' fundamental rights

Brussels, 29 June 2011 – The plight of refugees stuck on the outskirts of the EU is not just an issue confined to the southern Mediterranean. A new JRS report shows that asylum seekers in Ukraine are left to their own devices in a country that cannot provide the protection they need.

The launch of the report, to be released this morning at the Residence Palace (Club room), from 10:00 to 11:30, will be addressed by four speakers:
  • Ms Marina Hakimi, an Afghan refugee, will give a firsthand account of how she sought protection in Europe, but instead was left in Ukraine (via a pre-recorded video presentation).
  • Fr David Nazar SJ, JRS Ukraine Director, will speak about the gaps in protection for asylum seekers and refugees in the country.
  • Mr Stefan Kessler, JRS Europe Senior Policy Officer, will make EU policy recommendations.
  • Ms Ska Keller, MEP (Greens/EFA, Germany), will speak about the EU's role in ensuring protection for asylum seekers and refugees in its bilateral relations with countries at its border.
The current crisis in the southern Mediterranean, which has witnessed tens of thousands of refugees fleeing to the EU from war-torn Libya, has revealed how important it is for the EU to help it's neighbouring countries to provide humanitarian protection. Ukraine is at the doorstep of Europe, sharing large borders with Poland and Romania. An existing readmission agreement allows these and other EU countries to return any migrant to Ukraine.

The potential for human rights abuse is real.

"Readmission at the EU-Ukraine border is cloaked in a veil of mystery. It is unknown whether people are truly able to apply for asylum in Europe, or if they are just sent back without any assessment", said JRS Europe Assistant Director, Luigi Romano SJ.

The report shows that the EU is also complicit. Policymaking toward Ukraine stresses border security and repelling irregular migration at the expense of protection. The EU has provided Ukraine with funding without really determining its ability to provide protection – throwing money at the country instead of addressing the problem in full.

"The EU cannot use Ukraine as a shield against migration. If the EU wants to help Ukraine improve its asylum systems, then they have to provide economic and technical support, as well proper monitoring and evaluation", says Fr Romano.

Refugees are left in Ukraine despite not even wanting to be there. Many are unable to return to their country for fear of persecution, blocked from seeking asylum in the EU by means of detention. JRS interviewed a detained woman in her sixth month of pregnancy.

"There was little respect for women in the centre", she said. Her husband, detained in a separate cell, added, "The director demanded that she stop crying all the time. When she didn't, she was punished by spending three days in solitary confinement."

In Ukraine, only 5,459 people have been granted refugee status since 1993. Until recently, three separate ministries oversaw asylum and migration policy, making it a very complex system for anyone to navigate. Ukrainian NGOs revealed that they are making decisions that the ministries should make, since there is not a coherent government policy.

Ukraine is a country still early in its democratic development. Living standards are very low and corruption is rife in the political sphere.

"One of the main problems for refugees is that the country lacks clear asylum laws and is barely able to look after its own people, let alone foreigners'', says David Nazar, JRS Ukraine Director.

The report, No Other Option: Testimonies from Asylum Seekers Living in Ukraine, is based on face-to-face interviews with asylum seekers, Ukrainian authorities and civil society organisations in Lviv.

Contact information:
Philip Amaral, Policy and Communications Officer
JRS Europe
Tel: +32 2 250 32 23; Mobile: +32 485 173 766;;

Notes to the editor:
JRS is present in 50 countries around the world with a mission to accompany, serve and advocate for refugees, asylum seekers and the forcibly displaced. The 14 offices in Europe provide direct services to migrants and their families, including material help such as food or shelter, as well as legal advice and social support. JRS staff and volunteers visit migrants in detention.

Since 2008, JRS Ukraine has run an accommodation centre in Lviv, near the western border of Ukraine, providing temporary housing to asylum seeker and refugee families, as well as vocational assistance, language courses and access to medical care.

The press briefing will be in English. Attendees will have the opportunity to interview all speakers, with the exception of Mrs Hakimi Marina. All attendees will receive a summary of Mrs Marina's presentation, and a copy of the JRS report.

Press Contact Information
James Stapleton
+39 06 6897 7465