meanwhile in Ukraine & Uzbekistan

08.Mar.06 - From 1 to 6 February 9 refugees from Uzbekistan, living in Crimea, Ukraine, applied to the Ukrainian authorities for an official asylum; 2 more officially (talking to the UNHCR-Ukraine office) claimed their intention to do so in the nearest time possible. On the 7th of February they were all arrested by the Ukrainian special police forces. Concerned with their fate, UNHCR officials contacted the authorities - and were reassured that their cases will be processed in due order.

But on 13 February their applications were rejected (none of the interested parties has been informed about that), and on 14th of February 10 of them were forcibly deported to Uzbekistan - place they tried to escaped from - and, by numerous, while still officially unconfirmed reports, are since then detained in Tashkent prison. The fate of 11th refugee is still unknown: SBU (Ukrainian security service) claimed that he is released, but nobody - neither from his community, nor from his friends - has seen him since than, and there are well-grounded fears for his health.

In fact, Ukrainian authorities handed refugees over to their executioners. Uzbekistan is infamous because of his authoritarian regime, use of tortures and death penalty, and violent suppression of the protests - as it happened in Andijan last May, where troops fired at protesters, killing at least several hundreds people.

This is only the latest case of forced deportation from Ukraine to their home countries - or places where they are persecuted. But this case, apart from being the latest, is also the best-documented. We launched a protest campaign, cooperating where possible and necessary with local human rights groups and international organisations, and also Uzbeki refugees' community, demanding: - keeping the fate of the deported under the close supervision and putting a pressure on the government of Uzbekistan (unfortunately, hopes of getting them out of Uzbekistan, which is internationally isolated after Andijan events, and is supported only by Moscow, are next to non-existent); - that Ukrainian government publicly acknowledges this as a grave mistake, and steps are taken to prevent this from happening in the future; - that all information concerning the case is made public; - that those responsible for this scandalous event are punished.

In this way we hope not only to do justice to the victims of this scandalous persecution, but also to help those who will have to claim asylum in Ukraine afterwards - so that the authorities know that their steps are closely monitors and reacted upon.

Ukrainian authorities didn't expect such a reaction (letters of protest from different NGOs, national as well as international, OSCE and even US State Department :/ also - public protests such as the one we staged in Kyiv on 28th of February). They have to find their way out of this mess, and started to make contradictory statements. First, it has been claimed, that after their asylum application were rejected, they became "illegal migrants". But it turned out that, by claiming this, Ukrainian government violates a number of international treaties as well as national legislation, including Convention on refugees of 1951 and Convention against the tortures. The next version has been that they were also involved in "criminal activity" of an unspecified nature - but this did not help neither. After our protests SBU used the most usual thing, claiming that they were "terrorists" from Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) - providing no proof; these claims are rejected by the whole community of Uzbeki refugees here.

We ask to support us. Now there is a chance of success, but, as usual, Ukrainian government is more sensitive to the pressure from outside than from inside. We ask you to protest in front of Ukrainian embassies and consulates (the list can be found here) We also ask you to send there faxes and letters of protest.

Where you will find it possible, actions in front of Uzbeki institutions are also needed.

More information can be found on the web-sites of HRW, AI, or on our own web-site concerning this campaign. (We just launched it yesterday, trying to put all the documents about the case in one place, so it's a pilot version. But quite a lot of documents and statements are already available there)

We also ask you to let us know if any action is taken, so that we can let people here know about it.

NoBorder-Kyiv (Ukraine)