At the end of 2001, Ukraine hosted about 6,000 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included about 3,000 recognized refugees, 183 asylum seekers with pending cases at year's end, and about 2,800 persons from Abkhazia, Georgia, to whom Ukraine granted special "war refugee" status. In addition, approximately 3,300 formerly deported persons were living in refugee-like conditions in the Republic of Crimea at year's end, still unable to complete naturalization procedures.

During the year, 916 persons applied for asylum in Ukraine, a 52 percent decrease from the 1,893 who applied in 2000. The Ukrainian authorities stopped accepting asylum applications during the last five months of 2001, accounting for the steep drop. Only 780 cases were decided on the merits during the year, of which 455 (58 percent) were recognized as refugees and 325 rejected.

In 2001, Afghans represented 82 percent of persons granted refugee status. The Afghan approval rate was 69 percent. The majority of recognized refugees – those recognized both in 2001 and in previous years – came from Afghanistan (1,587).

Until a new refugee law was passed mid-year, recognized refugees in Ukraine were required to re-register to maintain their refugee status every three months. Although 5,174 persons had been recognized as refugees between 1996 and the end of 2001, only 2,983 maintained their status and were still registered with the authorities at the end of 2001. During the year, the government terminated the refugee status of 268 formerly recognized refugees for failure to register. Most presumably had moved on to seek more durable asylum in Western countries. The authorities revoked refugee status for 72 other formerly recognized refugees for a variety of other reasons. Among those deprived of their refugee status were two Chechens whose recognition was revoked after Ukrainian authorities ruled that the conditions that had caused the refugees to flee Chechnya had ceased to exist.

A total of 10,112 Ukrainians sought asylum in other industrialized countries during the year, up 39 percent from 2000.

Asylum Law and Procedure

The government stopped registering asylum seekers and adjudicating their claims during the last five months of 2001 because of political, legal, and bureaucratic disarray. In 2000, the Ukrainian government disbanded the State Committee for Nationalities and Migration (SCNM) – the agency responsible for overseeing the implementation of the 1993 Law on Refugees – and replaced it with the State Department for Nationalities and Migration (SDNM) in early 2001. In June, the government enacted a new Law on Refugees, then it disbanded the SDNM in August and recreated the SCNM, but without legal authority to implement the new Law on Refugees. Asylum procedures did not appear likely resume before the summer of 2002.

Ukraine has not signed the UN Refugee Convention, and its 1993 Law on Refugees fell well short of international standards. The June 2001 Law on Refugees, however, established the preconditions for Ukraine to accede to the Refugee Convention and Protocol. The president of Ukraine also issued a decree in June that called upon the foreign ministry to submit proposals for Ukraine's accession to the Refugee Convention and Protocol.

The new law incorporates the Convention refugee definition and includes a non-refoulement (no forced return of refugees) provision. The new legislation also supersedes the 1993 law's time limit on refugee status, instead making the duration of status dependent on conditions in the country of origin. The new law also allows refugees to be issued travel documents and to petition for family reunification.

The 2001 law provides recognized refugees the same rights as Ukrainian nationals regarding medical care, education, work, choice of residence, and right to move. It allows asylum seekers to remain in Ukraine pending exhaustion of appeals, and introduces a safe-third-country provision more consistent with international standards than appeared in the 1993 law.

The 2001 law also introduces a restrictive time limit for lodging asylum applications. Under the new legislation, persons who arrive illegally have three working days to apply for asylum, legal arrivals have five working days to apply, and sur place claimants must apply before their temporary legal status in the country expires.

Regional Migration Service offices decide asylum claims in the first instance (21 of 27 regions had functioning systems in the first half of the year, and none in the second). Although the 1993 law provided for an appeal procedure to the SDNM, during 2001 the department did not overturn any Migration Service decisions. Ukrainian courts, however, overturned two refugee-status decisions during the year.

Under the new law, asylum seekers may not be rejected on safe-third-country grounds unless the third countries conduct refugee status determinations consistent with the 1951 Convention and agree to receive the asylum seeker and examine his or her claim.

However, cases adjudicated in 2001 (only the first half of the year, since no cases were adjudicated in the last half), were decided according to the 1993 law, with its expansive safe-third-country provision. Accordingly, Migration Service officials rejected the largest number of cases (93) on safe-third-country grounds. Asylum seekers previously rejected on the basis of the 1993 law's safe-third-country provision will have the opportunity for reconsideration of their claims under the new law.

Regional Migration Services rejected another 81 cases for failure to meet the refugee definition. Migration Services denied 49 cases on the basis of the "safe country of origin" provision of the 1993 law, rejecting the claims of 48 cases from Chechnya and one from Congo-Brazzaville because the asylum seekers came from countries regarded as "safe." During the year, 80 percent of all Chechen asylum cases were rejected.

Residence Permits

The age-old Soviet system of internal passports (propiskas) survived the fall of the Soviet Union in the Ukraine, and refugees and asylum seekers in Ukraine often faced bureaucratic obstacles to obtaining residence permits. Several developments in 2001, however, boded well for a change in these requirements.

In November, the Constitutional Court ruled the propiska system unconstitutional. Earlier in the year, on June 15, the president of Ukraine issued a decree on freedom of movement for the gradual elimination of propiskas. In the same decree, the president said that registration of foreigners should occur only at ports of entry, and that interior bodies should require no additional registration for foreigners who are legally and temporarily residing in the country.

Abkhaz (Georgian) Refugees

Based on a 1996 Cabinet of Ministers resolution, Ukraine maintains a temporary-protection regime for "war refugees" forced to leave their places of permanent residence in Abkhazia, Georgia. At year's end, 2,793 persons, including 504 children, were beneficiaries of this status. Almost 300 persons newly gained war-refugee status in 2001.

Regional Migration Service offices may issue war-refugee certificates to Georgians with propiska stamps in their national passports, showing that they are from Abkhazia. The renewable certificates are valid for six months. Applicants must also establish that they had well-founded protection reasons for leaving their places of permanent residence and that they are not evading a criminal proceeding. Persons granted war-refugee status are permitted to choose places of residence within Ukraine, apply for temporary work permits, use health-care institutions, and enroll their children in school.


Between 1993 and 1999, about 260,000 Crimean Tatars (exiled to Central Asia by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in the 1940s), along with smaller numbers of Bulgarians, Armenians, Greeks, and Germans, returned to the Crimea after facing persecution and conflict in the former Soviet Central Asian republics. Most of the formerly deported people remained stateless until Ukraine adopted legislation in 1998 to simplify the naturalization process, removing a mandatory five-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. Still, at the beginning of 2001, about 20,000 Tatars remained stateless, and, on January 18, 2001, Ukraine further amended its citizenship law by allowing stateless persons first to naturalize and then to have one year to renounce claims to foreign citizenship. The new law also removed other remaining procedural barriers to naturalization.

By the end of 2001, more than 230,000 formerly deported persons had acquired Ukrainian citizenship, and the statelessness problem for formerly deported peoples was well on its way to being resolved, with only 371 persons of the persons registered as lacking any citizenship in 1999 still remaining stateless. Another 3,000 persons who had registered after 1999, but had not yet completed citizenship procedures, remained stateless. Officials projected that another 3,000 formerly deported persons, mostly Tatars from Uzbekistan and Georgia, would continue to arrive annually and need to naturalize.

Unauthorized Migration

Ukrainian border troops apprehended 4,620 improperly documented or undocumented migrants in 2001, the largest number of whom were Afghans (1,488). Migrants from Asia and the Middle East accounted for 98 percent of arrests; Africans represented the other 2 percent. Although the number of undocumented foreigners apprehended was 15 percent less than the previous year, the number of Iraqis arrested (almost 400) increased from the previous year. During the year, Ukrainian border troops delivered only 3 of the 4,620 undocumented persons they apprehended to regional Migration Service offices to pursue asylum claims.

Ukraine has readmission agreements with Hungary, Moldova, Poland, and the Slovak Republic. It has signed, but not ratified, readmission agreements with Bulgaria, Latvia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, and is drafting agreements with Croatia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Russia, Switzerland, and Tajikistan.

The Ministry of Interior reported 26,131 removable foreigners in Ukraine in 2001, of whom 17,590 were ordered deported and 1,583 actually expelled. The government attributed the relatively low level of removals primarily to lack of funds.


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