IOM watch: HRW report on IOM role in Ukraine

21.May.06 - Back in November 2005, Human Rights Watch published a report, 'Ukraine: On the Margins: Rights Violations against Migrants and Asylum Seekers at the New Eastern Border of the European Union'. It shows the role of IOM in migration control, illustrates the role Ukraine is supposed to play in the EU's externalisation process, and reveals serious human rights violations of migrants and refugees in Ukrainian detention centres, including chain deportation/refoulement.

"The report documents the routine detention of migrants and asylum seekers in appalling conditions in Ukraine. It reports on pervasive corruption, and shows migrants and asylum seekers being subjected to violence, robbery, and extortion. The report demonstrates that Ukraine's asylum system is barely functioning. It shows that Chechen asylum seekers, in particular, are barred from access to protection and are regularly returned to the Russian Federation, raising concerns about refoulement.

The report notes that the E.U. is funding a 4 million IOM project to develop two detention centers for migrants in northern Ukraine (Lutsk and Cernihiv). The future detention facilities are former military compounds in isolated areas, and were described in January by an IOM official as "sanatoriums." Work on this project was suspended because IOM did not have a counterpart in the government due to transition and institutional reforms.

Human Rights Watch has previously raised concerns about IOM operation of detention centers, particularly in its operation of the camps in Manus Island and Nauru, as part of the so-called Pacific Solution designed by the Australian government. Human Rights Watch concluded that these centers were, effectively, detention facilities, in which asylum seekers were being arbitrarily detained without access to legal assistance or an independent appeals body to review their asylum claims. Human Rights Watch is concerned that plans for new detention facilities in Ukraine are preceding the development of laws to regulate them, and, more generally, to regulate the detention of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers.

As part of an E.U. project entitled "Capacity Building in Migration Management: Ukraine," IOM commissioned studies on smuggling and trafficking, use of biometrics, and review of current migratory flows. When interviewed about the role of IOM on the asylum and migration scene in Ukraine, the head of the IOM office in Ukraine told Human Rights Watch that his role is limited to building detention facilities and contracting international experts to review Ukrainian legislation and assess local needs. His response to the concern that detention facilities are constructed in the absence of a proper legal framework and of effective remedies to allow the release of detainees was to suggest that such concerns are a matter for NGOs rather than IOM."