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Uzbeks Deported From Ukraine

UN Refugee Agency Calls For Humane Treatment For Uzbeks Deported From Ukraine

New York, Feb 17 2006

The United Nations refugee agency called for humane treatment for 11 Uzbek asylum-seekers whom they said were forcibly deported to their homeland this week by Ukraine and are probably in the hands of Uzbek authorities.

“We are extremely concerned over their fate and insist that they be treated humanely and in full accordance with international standards,” said Ron Redmond, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The forced deportations were also of great concern to the agency. “UNHCR deplores the actions of Ukrainian authorities in forcing the 11 asylum seekers back to their home country on Tuesday night, in contravention of Ukraine's international obligations,” Mr. Redmond said.

He reiterated the importance of the principle known as “non-refoulement,” under which no refugee or asylum-seeker whose case has not yet been properly assessed, can be forcibly returned to their country of origin.

Refoulement is a violation of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, to which Ukraine is a signatory, and is also contrary to international customary law, he said.

He added that the agency is urgently seeking information on – and access to – the Uzbeks, as well as seeking clarification from the Ukrainian authorities.

Details of the situation are still emerging, according to UNHCR, which said that on 7 February, it learned that the asylum seekers had been arrested in two different locations in Crimea by unidentified Ukrainian law-enforcement authorities.

The agency said that the Ukrainian authorities confirmed the asylum seekers had been taken to a detention facility in Simferopol after the authorities received requests for their extradition from the Prosecutor's Office of Uzbekistan, alleging involvement in the civilian protests in Andijan on 13 May 2005, which ended violently.

ENDS

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