UNHCR concerned about forced return of Sri Lankans by Ukraine

7 March 2008

GENEVA - The UN refugee agency expressed concern on Friday about the forced return (refoulement) by Ukraine of a group of eleven Sri Lankan asylum seekers. The expulsions took place on Tuesday 4 and Wednesday 5 March, 2008. The eleven Sri Lankans were returned to Colombo via Dubai

The eleven were registered and provided with documentation by UNHCR in Kyiv in December 2007, but were apprehended and detained because they had entered into Ukraine illegally. On several occasions, UNHCR requested that these individuals be granted effective access to an examination of the substance of their asylum claims.

UNHCR is concerned about the violation of the fundamental procedural rights of this group. As a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, Ukraine should have provided access to interpreters, legal representation and the right to appeal against the expulsion order, as well as an effective access to asylum procedures.

UNHCR reiterates the importance of the principle of non-refoulement, under which no refugee or asylum seeker should be forcibly returned to their country of origin, in accordance with international and Ukrainian law.