[ 17. Jan 2012 ]

Call for Solidarity: Hunger strike in Ukrainian Detention Centre

No Borders in Ukrainian, Russian and English, from noborder camp 2007

Arbitrary detention, police harassment, denial of asylum, no way out of Ukraine: 61 persons are in hunger strike in two detention centres in Ukraine.


"Either they recognise us as refugees - or they say 'no' and then tell the whole world what they are doing here", said one of the hunger strikers, S.H., speaking from the detention centre. He continues "We are not murderers. We left Somalia just to save our life." In Ukraine, 61 Somalians have been on hunger strike since 6th January in the Lutsk detention centre with another 15 reportedly on hunger strike in another detention centre at Chernigiv. 13 of the hunger strikers are women (7 of whom are under the age of 18). 17 of the men are also under 18. One 17 year old striker, A.K.S., is very ill and in a separate room. He had not been examined by a doctor until recently, but according to S.H., on Sunday 15th January a doctor has finally seen him.

The hunger strikers are detained in an asylum system which is profoundly unjust. They say that Somalians are always refused asylum in Ukraine, but S.H. points out that if they try to cross into the EU they are bounced back into Ukraine and detained. Only about 12 of the hunger strikers had attempted this. They are subject to police harassment and corruption and can be detained by the authorities for periods of 12 months if they don't have a temporary permit to stay
legally in Ukraine. Asylum seekers can be re-detained within a short period after release and then face another 12 months in detention. Some of the hunger strikers have been in Ukraine for 5 or 6 years before they were detained. Some have been detained more then once.
Their demands to the Ukrainian Government are:

1) Somalian asylum seekers are granted asylum status in Ukraine.
2) They are released from detention.
3) Asylum seekers are to be provided with documents so they cannot be arrested.
4) There is an end to the police harassment of asylum seekers.
5) No asylum seeker is to face re-arrest after a period of detention.

Ukraine's asylum procedure is in chaos. The arbitrary detention of the hunger strikers is just one more way in which the rule of law is ignored in Ukraine. Recent asylum laws created a new Government department to examine asylum applications, but failed to give it authority to act, while the old department was dismantled. As a result, asylum seekers cannot make asylum applications so they cannot get temporary residence permits and so become illegalised. Asylum seekers who were already in the system often cannot obtain an extension of their temporary permits and are therefore subject to arrest as they become illegalised. No decisions on refugee status are
being made and asylum appeals are postponed as the new Government department is not recognised by judges.

Even those who have been granted refugee status in the past are often not receiving their residence permits – re-issued each year - and so become illegalised. The Government has increased the penalty for being without temporary residence documents from 6 to 12 months detention. Asylum seekers in Ukraine cannot work and do not receive financial support while they await the decision on their application.
The hunger strikers ask everyone to publicise and raise support for their demands as widely and as quickly as possible. If you are in the EU, please raise this with your parliamentary representative or Member of the European Parliament as Ukraine is sensitive to EU pressure.