At the end of 2003, Ukraine hosted about 3,100 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included about 2,900 recognized refugees and 200 asylum seekers who were registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) whose cases are pending appeals. The majority of recognized refugees came from Afghanistan (1,500). Smaller numbers came from Armenia (200), Azerbaijan (200), Russia (200), Congo-Brazzaville (100), Georgia (100), Sudan (100), and Iraq (100).

In addition, about 5,000 persons from Abkhazia that Georgia granted "war refugee" status were living in refugee-like circumstances in Ukraine. Ukraine offered citizenship to 280,000 Crimean Tatars previously counted as living in such circumstances and nearly all have naturalized.

During 2003, 1,400 persons applied for asylum with Ukraine's Regional Migration Services (RMS). The RMS admitted 500 persons into the procedure (later deeming 150 claims, representing 300 applicants, manifestly unfounded), and rejected 900 persons for violating a strict application deadline. RMS admitted about 200 persons into the procedure and granted refugee status to 40 of them.

About 11,200 Ukrainians sought asylum in other industrialized countries during the year.

Asylum Law and Procedure

The national refugee law contains highly restrictive filing deadlines: three working days for persons who arrive illegally and five working days for legal arrivals. Sur place claimants must apply before their initial legal status in the country expires. During the year, almost 65 percent of asylum applications were rejected on these grounds. In Kiev City, the migration service routinely refused to receive new applications, telling applicants to fill out an address form and return two to three months later and then rejecting them when they did.

The law also excludes all refugees recognized in other countries, and allows the government to deny or revoke refugee status by administrative procedure. The law also contained four different certificates issued at various stages of the process, leading to documentation gaps and long delays. In some cases, the confusion led RMS offices to reject asylum seekers' claims as unfounded or fraudulent. During the year, UNHCR increased the number of persons referred for resettlement to other countries from fewer than 20 last year, to 140 this year.

Ukraine allows some 3,000 Abkhazians from Georgia, including several hundred children, special temporary protection as "war refugees." About another 2,000 Abkhazians were in Ukraine without registration or status.

By the end of 2003, the majority of some 270,000 formerly deported persons USCR previously counted as living in refugee-like circumstances had acquired Ukrainian citizenship but about 5,000 had not yet completed the procedures.


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