At the end of 2000, Ukraine hosted more than 5,500 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 2,961 recognized refugees, 62 asylum seekers with pending cases at year's end, and 2,497 persons from Abkhazia, Georgia, to whom Ukraine granted special "war refugee" status. In addition, approximately 27,400 formerly deported persons were living in refugee-like conditions in the Republic of Crimea at year's end.

The number of recognized refugees residing in Ukraine increased slightly during the year, from 2,697 in 1999 to 2,961 in 2000. The majority of recognized refugees came from Afghanistan (1,685). Smaller numbers came from Armenia (229), Russia (218), Azerbaijan (192), Georgia (113), Congo-Brazzaville (111), and Sudan (69).

During 2000, 1,893 persons applied for asylum in Ukraine, a 9 percent increase from the 1,739 who applied in 1999. Of the 2,032 individuals whose cases were decided during the year, 895 (44 percent) were recognized as refugees, and 1,137 (56 percent) were denied status.

In 2000, more than two-thirds of persons granted refugee status came from one of three countries: 29 percent from Afghanistan (275); 23 percent from Armenia (211); and 23 percent from Russia (208). Modest numbers also came from Azerbaijan (73) and Georgia (50), along with smaller numbers from Congo-Brazzaville (18) and other countries.

A total of 5,370 Ukrainians sought asylum in other European countries during the year, up 48 percent from 1999.


Ukraine has not signed the UN Refugee Convention. During 2000, the Parliament considered draft revisions of its 1993 Law on Refugees, which, if enacted, would bring it into greater congruence with international standards. However, the government had not adopted a revised refugee law by year's end.

Under the 1993 law, Ukraine's regional migration services have one month to decide asylum cases. All of Ukraine's 27 regional migration services conduct refugee status determinations, with the Kiev office handling more than half of the applications.

Recognized refugees have similar rights as citizens and are entitled to receive limited material assistance. However, the law requires refugees to re-register every three months and restricts their ability to work. Refugees may naturalize after five years of legal residence in Ukraine under a recent citizenship law.

In early 2000, the government disbanded the State Committee for Nationalities and Migration (SCNM) – the agency responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Law on Refugees – and replaced it with the State Department for Nationalities and Migration. Until that time, rejected applicants could appeal migration-service decisions to the Appeals Commission of the SCNM, provided they did so within one week.

In early 2000, the Appeals Commission of the SCNM approved more than 30 appeals presented by Chechens from the Russian Federation whose cases had been rejected by the regional migration services. The new State Department for Nationalities and Migration took over in June 2000. Data on the number and outcome of appeals decided under the new department, if any, were not available.

Barriers to Asylum

Despite some progress, significant gaps remained in Ukraine's ability to receive and protect refugees in 2000.

According to the 1993 Law on Refugees, Ukraine considers all 133 countries that have acceded to the UN Refugee Convention or Protocol and countries that have adopted refugee legislation to be "safe third countries" to which asylum seekers may be returned. Migration authorities apply the vast list of safe third countries to asylum seekers on a group basis, rather than individually determining each asylum seeker's ability to apply for refugee status and receive effective protection in transit countries. As a result, Ukraine's migration authorities often do not heed protection gaps in "safe" transit countries – such as Turkey's geographically limited accession to the UN Refugee Convention and inadequate safeguards against refoulement in Russia's airports.

In 2000, persons denied entry because of the safe third country rule were often unable to return to their countries of transit and had no means to regularize their status in Ukraine.

In addition to "indiscriminate use of the safe third country clause," the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that other factors limited access to Ukraine's asylum procedure, including backlogs in asylum processing and Ukraine's application of the principle of nonrefoulement only to recognized refugees.

Access to the refugee status determination procedure was most difficult along Ukraine's border, as the government launched an intense effort to curb the smuggling of goods, human trafficking, and illegal immigration. By November, the Ukrainian Border Guard Force had established 22 posts along the border with Moldova and 60 posts along its border with Russia. Border police routinely arrested and detained undocumented migrants, including would-be asylum seekers. During the first eleven months of 2000, border police detained 14,598 foreigners, up from about 13,000 in 1999, 12,000 in 1998, and 11,000 in 1997.

As a result of tighter border controls, many migrants and asylum seekers reportedly employed smugglers to help them cross the border in and out of Ukraine. According to the U.S. State Department, Ukraine remained both a source and transit point for women and girls trafficked into central and western Europe, the Middle East, and the United States for prostitution and other sexual exploitation.

Residence Permits

During the year, the government did not fulfill its pledge to abolish the age-old Soviet system of internal passports (propiskas). As a result, refugees and asylum seekers in Ukraine continued to face bureaucratic obstacles to obtaining residence permits.

In some cases, regional passport and registration offices refused to issue residence permits to refugees and asylum seekers without travel documents or with expired passports, viewing refugee and asylum seeker certificates issued by the regional migration services as insufficient documentation for residence registration. Asylum seekers without certificates often fell victim to police harassment, evictions from their apartments, and detention.

Crimean Peninsula

During 2000, Ukraine made significant progress toward resolving the problem of statelessness for some 270,000 "formerly deported persons" who returned to the Crimea after being exiled to Central Asia by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in the 1940s.

In recent years, about 260,000 Crimean Tatars, along with smaller numbers of Bulgarians, Armenians, Greeks, and Germans, had returned to the Crimea. In 1997 and 1998, Ukraine adopted legislation to simplify the naturalization process for most formerly deported people, removing a mandatory 5-year residence requirement and a language-proficiency requirement. However, the law excluded persons who did not renounce other foreign citizenship, including more than 60,000 Tatars from Uzbekistan who could not confirm that they had relinquished their Uzbek citizenship. Ukraine added a simplified procedure for renouncing Uzbek citizenship to the law in 1999, enabling the majority of Tatars from Uzbekistan to become citizens by the end of 2000. At year's end, more than 230,000 formerly deported persons had acquired Ukrainian citizenship.

However, the situation of approximately 20,000 Tatars remained unresolved. Of these, most still held citizenship from other former Soviet states with which Ukraine had yet to establish a simplified procedure for the transfer of citizenship.

In addition, some 7,400 persons in the Crimea – mainly from Georgia (Abkhazia) and Tajikistan – who fled violence in their home countries remained "of concern" to UNHCR at year's end.


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