Refugees cannot be extradited – release Sopolov!

The “No Borders” Project of the Social Action Centre has issued a statement over the arrest of refugee Denis Sopolov who came to Ukraine fleeing persecution by the authorities of the Russian Federation. He approached the UNHCR Office in Ukraine asking for protection, and having studied his case, the latter decided that Denis’s prosecution by the authorities was politically motivated and declared him a mandate refugee.

Denis Sopolov then turned to the Kyiv Department of the Migration Service. He presented the same documents that he had shown the UNHCR and concealed nothing, including the fact that he was being sought by the RF authorities for prosecution over the “Khimki case” (the protests over the destruction of the Khimki forest in the Moscow region).  Nonetheless, unlike the UNHCR, Ukraine’s State Committee on Nationalities and Religion decided that Sopolov had no grounds for fearing persecution in the Russian Federation and refused him refugee status.


The statement says that it is difficult to judge why the conclusion of the State Committee on Nationalities and Religion differs so radically from the position of the UNHCR and that the rejection notice gave no reasons. “One thing alone is clear: the asylum system in Ukraine, despite UNHCR hopes, cannot expect to be considered effective and functional since applications for asylum are rejected without reasons being given.


Furthermore, what has happened to Denis since his application was rejected demonstrates that the asylum system in Ukraine is in practice a trap for refugees”.


The statement goes on to explain that on 2 March 2011 on the day that he was refused asylum, he was placed in custody in order to enable his extradition to the RF.  One can find no other explanation for his arrest. The Migration Service to which refugees turn for protection, has been turned into a place of deprivation of liberty by the authorities.


The statement points out that the Migration Service and Ministry of the Interior were no alone in their eagerness to ensure Denis’ extradition. On 4 March the Solomensky Court in Kyiv ignored his mandate refugee status, and the fact that the rejection by the State Committee is not the final decision and an appeal has already been lodged. The court saw no need to heed any of this, nor the arguments regarding the risk of torture or ill-treatment if Sopolov was extradited, and issued an order for his remand in custody for 40 days.


“Ukraine’s authorities must understand that Denis’ extradition is impossible at least because he has been declared a refugee by the UNHCR. He must therefore be RELEASED IMMEDIATELY”.


Denis’ lawyer will also be appealing against the court order on remand in custody.

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