Court confirms that asylum seekers may work

The detention and conviction of asylum seekers for working without special permits has been standard both for the police and for Ukrainian courts.

However a Judge from the Sviatoshynsky District Court in Kyiv has found that there is no administrative offence in a person seeking asylum, i.e. refugee status, in Ukraine working without a special permit. This means that asylum seekers who work without special permits envisaged by Ukrainian legislation for foreigners have the right to do so and are not breaking the law.

The case examined by the Court concerned an asylum seeker from Uzbekistan (Mr X). He has applied for refugee status in Ukraine due to the danger of persecution from the authorities and enforcement bodies in Uzbekistan and is presently going through the application procedure. He has the documents issued by the Migration Service to formal asylum seekers.

He was detained by police officers on 15 March 2010 at a local market where he was working, and charged under Article 203 § 1 of the Code of Administrative Offences because he was working in Ukraine while not having the special permit he needed as a foreign national.

The Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Nationals and Stateless Persons makes an exception to the requirement that foreigners have a work permit only for those granted refugee status. This has up till now led the police to view asylum seekers who are working as in breach of the law.

On the other hand, Article 18 of the Law on Refugees clearly states that a person whose application for refugee status has been accepted for consideration has the right to temporary employment.  This is just one of many clashes in legislation regarding the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.

It should of course be noted that an asylum seeker can be waiting months if not years for a decision. During this period they receive no social assistance from the State and simply must work to survive. 

The “Without Borders” Project provided Mr X with legal assistance and represented him in court. On 22 March, the Sviatoshynsky District Court in Kyiv, having considered the arguments from Mr X and “Without Borders”, concluded that Mr X’s actions in working at a local market did not constitute an administrative offence, and terminated the case.

“Without Borders” hope that this ruling will be taken into consideration by police officers and Ukrainian courts, and that the practice of detaining and convicting people who have applied for asylum and are working to survive through honest labour, will finally be stopped.

From information circulated by Maxim Butkevych from the Without Borders Project 

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