back to the Immigration Detention Monitor

11 May 2020 – Ukraine

Inside Lukyanivska Prison in Kyiv - a facility which is notorious for its terrible conditions, 2018 (Radio Free Liberty,
Inside Lukyanivska Prison in Kyiv - a facility which is notorious for its terrible conditions, 2018 (Radio Free Liberty,

According to information provided to the Global Detention Project (GDP) by the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG), the Ukrainian government is currently preparing to release inmates from prisons across Ukraine in an effort to stem the spread of the virus. Together with the Ministry of Justice, KHPG has prepared two bills on amnesty and parole which have been approved by the government, and which are now awaiting parliamentary approval. According to the KHPG, rights groups hope for 40 percent of the prison population to be released from the country’s “chronically underfunded” penitentiary system. On 30 April, the head of the UN Monitoring Mission for Human Rights in Ukraine called on the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Health to strengthen their response to Covid-19 in the country’s penitentiary system.

There do not appear to be any specific plans to release people from migration-related detention, and to-date, KHPG is not aware of any calls from civil society to protect non-citizens. According to the rights group, some lawyers and government officials view – if inaccurately – immigration detention facilities as resembling hotels rather than prisons. They also hold that with deportation impossible and no alternative accommodation options in place, it would be “dangerous” to release non-citizens.

In recent years, the number of people detained at Temporary Holding Centres for Foreign Nationals and Stateless Persons (THCs) for the purpose of expulsion has increased: from 407 in 2014 to 1,481 in 2018. KHPG says that there is significant overcrowding at THCs, which have a maximum capacity of 473, and that detainees have limited access to assistance. According to the Ombudsman’s 2018 report, detention conditions are inadequate in THCs – those inside have limited space, and are restricted in their ability to communicate with the outside world. Within the context of a pandemic, such conditions raise significant concerns.

In early May, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights also reported concerns regarding the detention of Ukrainian nationals (and others who have not taken Russian citizenship) in both Russia and occupied Ukrainian territories. Noting that Crimean Tatars detained in the Russian Federation and occupied Crimea lack sufficient space, ventilation, and sanitary conditions, she pointed to reports that they are not being provided with PPE, disinfectants, or medicines.