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UNHCR asks Ukraine to free detained refugee, decline extradition request

Press Releases, 20 March 2013

UNHCR is deeply concerned about the continued detention and possible refoulement of the former prime minister of Tajikistan, Abdoumalik Abdoulladjanov, a recognized refugee arrested in Ukraine.

A district court in Kyiv last Friday ordered Mr. Abdoulladjanov's detention for up to twelve months, pending a decision on his extradition to Tajikistan. The former Tajik prime minister has been recognized as a refugee by the United States and had travelled to Ukraine on a valid US-issued travel document with a Ukrainian visa. He was detained upon his arrival at Kyiv's Boryspil International Airport on 5 February 2013.

UNHCR reiterates the importance of the principle of non-refoulement, under which no refugee can be forcibly returned to their country of origin, including by way of extradition. Refoulement is a violation of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, to which Ukraine is a signatory, as well as a fundamental breach of international human rights law. Refoulement is also prohibited under the national laws of Ukraine.

Since Mr. Abdoulladjanov's return to his country of origin would violate both international and domestic law, his continued detention for extradition purposes lacks a legitimate purpose.

UNHCR urges the Ukrainian authorities to act in accordance with international law by respecting Mr. Abdoulladjanov's refugee status and releasing him from detention. Ukraine is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention relating to the status of the refugees and the 1967 protocol.

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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.

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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.

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