UNHCR protests forced return of Chinese asylum seekers from Russia

Briefing Notes, 30 March 2007

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 30 March 2007, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

According to credible information received by UNHCR, a Chinese asylum seeker and her 8-year-old daughter were taken by the Russian authorities from their St. Petersburg residence last Wednesday (28 March) and put on a plane departing to China via Novosibirsk. The woman and her daughter had submitted a claim for asylum in accordance with the Russian Federation Law on Refugees. Their appeal against a first negative decision was scheduled to be considered by the Dzerzhinky District court in St. Petersburg this afternoon. Both had been registered by UNHCR as persons in need of international protection.

UNHCR is concerned at their forcible deportation in violation of the Russian Federation's international obligations and of the Russian Federation Law on Refugees, both of which prohibit the return of asylum seekers to their country of origin before a final decision on their asylum claims has been made. The Russian Federation is a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

UNHCR is following up with the asylum seekers' legal counsel and the Russian authorities to clarify the facts of the matter.