Detention and then what? Migrants speak up

20 March 2015

Placed in administrative custody per court decision, the 105 men, women and children in the Volyn Migrant Accommodation Center (MAC) talk about a better future. Depending on their background, origins and perspectives this future looks different: Some would like to return home, some seek refuge in Ukraine, whilst others will desperately continue their way towards the EU. A monitoring group of diplomats, representatives of Ukrainian state authorities and NGOs’ visited the facility this month*.

The MACs are long-term detention facilities that were refurbished under EU-funded projects and that have gained the reputation to ensure humane holding conditions and respectful treatment of migrants who are in an irregular situation in Ukraine. Thanks to long-standing and open cooperation with international organisations, such as IOM, international partners as well as human rights agencies, the atmosphere is friendly and the MAC management seeks to swiftly address any individual complaint in a constructive and efficient manner.  At the same time, many migrants are disappointed with the fact that they are placed to pre-removal detention for up to twelve months. Their attempts to appeal placement decisions meet a number of challenges, highlighting the needs for further enhancement and fine-tuning of the institutional and normative frameworks applicable to irregular migrants in Ukraine, including ensuring timely access to quality legal counseling, interpretation, as well as swift consideration of appeal cases. In addition, the facility hosts 14 children aged between two and sixteen. Even though school-aged kids have access to education, the younger ones lack development activities and necessary life experience.  The representatives of the international organizations who participated in the visit reminded once more that the state authorities should seek alternatives to detention of families with children in order to ensure fulfillment of Ukraine’s international obligations.

During constructive discussion, the participants in the visit, together with the MAC administration agreed on the following steps to enhance the system both at the local and the central level: the development of a number of leaflets with basic legal information on options after detention and possibilities to appeal detention and expulsion; joint efforts to ensure capacity building activities for personnel directly involved in the work with migrants including language courses and human rights-related training; unification of the procedure related to the issuance of the temporary residence permit for migrants after detention, as well as the introduction of normative frameworks for judicial consideration of alternatives to detention.

* The fourth in the series of analogous joint monitoring visits took place on 11-13 March 2015 and brought together seventeen participants representing different state authorities, diplomatic missions and civil society. The visit was organized within the framework of the EU-funded and IOM-implemented project “Pilot Initiative to Monitor Readmission in Ukraine and Pakistan”.