Human Rights Group Uncovers Abuse of Migrants in Ukraine
Liban Farah fled violence-torn Somalia with dreams of refuge in the European Union. He made it to new member state Slovakia but was arrested and sent back to neighboring Ukraine, where human smugglers had helped him cross the border, Kyiv Post reports.
That’s when the real horror began, said Farah, 20, describing a nearly three-month ordeal of beatings and abuse by border guards and police.
Migrants and asylum seekers caught in Ukraine en route to the EU or sent back to Ukraine through a deportation program with the EU risk severe abuse that sometimes amounts to torture, Human Rights Watch said in a report released yesterday.
The EU has spent millions of euros to improve the migration and asylum system here, under a program in which Ukraine accepts the return of illegal migrants who manage to cross into the EU, in exchange for looser travel rules for Ukrainians headed to EU countries.
“Ukraine apparently isn’t up to the task of respecting the migrants’ rights and protecting refugees,’’ Human Rights Watch said.
The New-York based organization urged Ukraine to end the “inhuman and degrading treatment’’ of asylum seekers and called on the EU to suspend its migration pact with Ukraine, which borders EU members Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary.
Boris Marchenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian Border Guard Service, said the agency will conduct a thorough investigation based on the report, but he called Human Rights Watch findings “subjective and one-sided.’’
The Interior Ministry and President Viktor Yanukovych’s office said they were preparing a comment on the report.
Farah flew to Moscow and paid Ukrainian smugglers $3,000 to help him cross into Ukraine and then into Slovakia, where he was hoping to seek political asylum. He was arrested in Slovakia shortly after he crossed the border.
Upon deportation to Ukraine, he was taken to what looked like a military base near the border. There, Farah said, an interrogator questioned him for six straight hours about his smugglers and smuggling routes, beating him every time Farah gave a negative answer. Rights groups and asylum seekers contend that security forces and smugglers are in cahoots, with border guards taking kickbacks or even actively participating in smuggling, then abusing migrants once they are sent back.