Concern over the murder of an asylum seeker in Ukraine

Briefing Notes, 1 February 2008

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 1 February 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

We are shocked by the murder last weekend in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv (Kiev) of an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The 19-year old asylum seeker arrived in June 2007 in search of international protection. He approached our partner NGO in Kyiv for legal assistance and was registered officially as an asylum seeker by the city of Kyiv migration service.

His body was found on the night of 27 January, with numerous knife wounds. The motive for the murder is not yet known, according to the police. The United Nations Office in Ukraine, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration have expressed to the Ukrainian authorities their grave concern over this murder and requested that a thorough investigation be conducted, including the possibility that it was a racially-motivated attack, and keep them informed of the outcome of the investigation.

Last June, we expressed concern about the rise in attacks on asylum seekers and refugees in Ukraine. In 2007 some 17 persons of concern reported to UNHCR such incidents in Kyiv alone , including unprovoked attacks, beatings and verbal abuse.

In January, organizations monitoring the situation noticed an increase in the number of incidents of violence against people of different ethnicity both in Kyiv and in other parts of the country.

UNHCR appreciates the important steps taken by the Ukrainian Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs, including the appointment of a special ambassador to address this problem.

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Asylum-Seekers

UNHCR advocates fair and efficient procedures for asylum-seekers

Zero-Star "Hotel" that Asylum-Seekers Call Home in Dijon

France is one of the main destinations for asylum-seekers in Europe, with some 55,000 new asylum applications in 2012. As a result of the growing number of applicants, many French cities are facing an acute shortage of accommodation for asylum-seekers.

The government is trying to address the problem and, in February 2013, announced the creation of 4,000 additional places in state-run reception centres for asylum-seekers. But many asylum-seekers are still forced to sleep rough or to occupy empty buildings. One such building, dubbed the "Refugee Hotel" by its transient population, lies on the outskirts of the eastern city of Dijon. It illustrates the critical accommodation situation.

The former meat-packing plant is home to about 100 asylum-seekers, mostly from Chad, Mali and Somalia, but also from Georgia, Kosovo and other Eastern European countries. Most are single men, but there are also two families.

In this dank, rat-infested empty building, the pipes leak and the electricity supply is sporadic. There is only one lavatory, two taps with running water, no bathing facilities and no kitchen. The asylum-seekers sleep in the former cold-storage rooms. The authorities have tried to close the squat several times. These images, taken by British photographer Jason Tanner, show the desperate state of the building and depict the people who call it home.

Zero-Star "Hotel" that Asylum-Seekers Call Home in Dijon

Ukraine: Sorting through the Wreckage

Conflict has changed the city of Sloviansk in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. "We used to have such a beautiful, calm, tidy city," says Angelina, a social worker. Today, it is full of destroyed homes and infrastructure, a casualty of the fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian forces. More than half of the inhabitants - some 70,000 people - fled the city during the combat earlier this year. In recent weeks, with the city back under government control, some 15,000 have returned. But they face many challenges. Maria, aged 80, returned to a damaged home and sleeps in the kitchen with her family. She worries about getting her pension. The UN refugee agency has transported several tons of hygiene items and kitchen equipment to the city for distribution to those who lost their homes. Photojournalist Iva Zimova recently accompanied UNHCR staff as they visited more than 100 families to give put aid.

Ukraine: Sorting through the Wreckage

Displacement, Disability and Uncertainty in Ukraine

To date, around 275,500 people have been displaced by fighting in Ukraine. They include some who live with disability, including Viktoria, aged 41, and her husband, Aleksandr, 40, who both have cerebral palsy. Life is difficult enough under normal circumstances for the couple, who also have two sons; 20-year-old Dima, and Ivan aged 19 months. Now it has become a real struggle.

At the end of July, shelling in the eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk forced Viktoria and Aleksandr to flee to the neighbouring Kharkiv region. It wasn't long before Viktoria's medication ran out. In a desperate bid to help, Aleksandr called the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation, which found them transportation and accommodation in Kharkiv.

From there, they were taken to the Promotei Summer Camp, located near the town of Kupiansk. The forest, fresh air and a lake near the camp offered a perfect setting to spend the summer. But, like 120 other internally displaced people (IDP) living there, all Viktoria and Aleksandr could think about was home. They had hoped to return by the Autumn. But it soon came and went.

Today, it is still not safe to go back to Donetsk. Moreover, the camp has not been prepared for the coming winter and the administration has asked people to leave by October 15. Neither Viktoria nor Aleksandr know where they and their young son can go next. The following photographs of the couple and their youngest child were taken by Emine Ziyatdinova.

Displacement, Disability and Uncertainty in Ukraine

Ukraine: A Summer Camp RefugePlay video

Ukraine: A Summer Camp Refuge

Normally, the Promotei camp hosts holidaymakers during Summer. But this year, it provided shelter for more than 100 Ukrainians forced by fighting to flee their homes in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine: Baby Born In ConflictPlay video

Ukraine: Baby Born In Conflict

Sasha was born just as the fighting started in Ukraine. He and his mother struggled to survive.
Ukraine: Displacement TraumaPlay video

Ukraine: Displacement Trauma

Across Eastern Ukraine, thousands face internal exile, lost homes and jobs and a very uncertain future.