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UNHCR Condemns Murder of Nigerian in Ukraine


The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says it is joining some 30 other organizations in condemning the recent murder of a Nigerian national in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. The victim was found dead with multiple knife wounds on the evening of May 29. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.

This is the latest in a series of attacks against foreigners in Ukraine. Police say the motive for the fatal attack against the Nigerian migrant is unknown. But, human rights groups are not satisfied with this response and are asking for a thorough investigation into the killing.

Spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency, Jennifer Pagonis, says the UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and some 30 other groups belonging to the Diversity Initiative human rights coalition are urging the Ukrainian authorities to look at the possibility that the attack was racially motivated. They have asked to be kept informed of the outcome of the investigation.

"Over the past two years, human rights groups have reported increasingly violent attacks on foreigners and non-Ukrainians in Kiev and elsewhere in the country," she said. "UNHCR and IOM have repeatedly expressed concern over unprovoked attacks, beatings and verbal abuse aimed at asylum seekers, refugees, migrants, foreigners and minorities in Ukraine. According to anecdotal evidence collected by the Diversity Initiative from victims, media sources and non-governmental organizations, there have been at least 40 such attacks so far in 2008, including four murders."

Pagonis says the victim had approached the UNHCR office in Kiev two years ago seeking legal assistance. At the time, she says he did not meet the criteria for asylum.

The International Organization for Migration says Ukraine is a destination country as well as a transit country for migrant workers from West and Central Africa. It says most of the attacks, which have occurred, have been targeted against Africans.

An IOM official says his agency is planning to start an information campaign to fight xenophobia in Ukraine. He says it will be patterned after a campaign that was started in South Africa following the attacks against foreign migrants there.

He says IOM plans to air messages of tolerance and understanding in the country's media.

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