UN refugee agency concerned at attacks on foreigners in Ukraine
Reacting to reports of attacks on foreigners in Ukraine, the United Nations refugee agency today acknowledged steps taken by the Government to address the problem while urging action to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.
“We are extremely concerned at what seems to be an increasing trend in the number and seriousness of racist attacks against asylum seekers, refugees and other foreigners in Ukraine,” William Spindler, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a press briefing in Geneva.
He noted that “a number of incidents of police violence against people seeking protection in Ukraine have been reported.”
The agency cited the 3 June killing in Kyiv of an Iraqi asylum seeker who was seeking protection in Ukraine. “The motives for this act are not yet known, and a police investigation is currently under way,” said Mr. Spindler. “But the number of attacks and harassment against foreigners in Ukraine in the last few months make it necessary to investigate the motives of this murder carefully, including racist motivations.”
The spokesman said that since 2001, when the agency first voiced concern after a refugee from Rwanda was beaten to death outside his home, UNHCR's office in Kyiv “has been receiving on a regular basis, first-hand reports of racially motivated incidents, unprovoked attacks, beatings, verbal insults and other acts of xenophobia against refugees and asylum seekers in different regions of Ukraine.”
UNHCR acknowledged the “important steps taken by the Ukrainian authorities to address this problem, including high-profile public statements by the Minister of the Interior,” said Mr. Spindler, voicing appreciation for the “openness of the authorities in Kiev to discuss these problems.”
The agency encouraged the Ukrainian authorities “to increase their efforts to put an end to these attacks and to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice, as a matter of urgency,” he said.
He noted that UNHCR is working with other UN agencies, the diplomatic community and human rights organizations in Ukraine to counteract xenophobia and racism, including through advocacy activities designed to promote tolerance and free legal aid to victims of xenophobia and racial violence.