Briefing Notes, 26 July 2013
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 26 July 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
A UNHCR report released today, while acknowledging significant progress in recent years, says Ukraine's asylum system still requires fundamental improvements. It needs to offer better protection against refoulement and to improve the fairness and efficiency of the hearings process. As a result of these concerns, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is advising other states not to return asylum-seekers to Ukraine at this time.
UNHCR has evaluated Ukraine's asylum system as part of its mandate to monitor implementation of the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol, and as part of a series of studies of asylum systems in Europe, including those in Hungary and Serbia. Among issues the assessment covers are access to Ukraine's asylum system, refugee status determination and the treatment of unaccompanied minors, and how people of concern are received, housed or detained in Ukraine. The report makes specific recommendations on how to strengthen the asylum system. Ukraine has declared its intention to synchronize its asylum policy and laws with international practices as well as in the context of its negotiations with the European Union on visa liberalization.
UNHCR believes Ukraine has made progress in several areas, including access to asylum procedures and the reception of unaccompanied and separated children. Basic improvements are still needed, though, in guaranteeing effective protection against asylum-seekers being sent back to the countries from which they fled. There is also a need to create conditions for the transparent and fair review of asylum applications, including for instance enhancing the independence of decision-makers. Adequate reception capacity and resources for asylum-seekers are still lacking, and access to, and conditions in, the country's two temporary accommodation centres remain below established standards.
UNHCR remains ready to work with the Ukrainian Government to help implement the report's recommendations to develop its relatively new asylum system. We have already prepared draft amendments on documentation, medical care and employment for asylum-seekers. And draft amendments on detention – designed to bring Ukraine's laws in line with European standards – are already before parliament. UNHCR is ready to help Ukraine give asylum-seekers and refugees real protection as well as a real chance to integrate into and contribute to their host country.
UNHCR's new report "Ukraine as a Country of Asylum: Observations on the Situation of Asylum-Seekers and Refugees in Ukraine" is available online at http://www.refworld.org/docid/51ee97344.html
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