FECL 45 (July 1996):


In attempting to satisfy Western demands for strict migration control, it is not just Poland that is resorting to practices introduced in the era of the Iron Curtain. In June, the Ukrainian Parliament restored a Soviet-era border control zone with special powers for the police to crack down on attempts by illegal migrants to travel to the West.

Deputies approved a law giving police and border guards authority to check individuals "giving cause for suspicion" and authorising them to use weapons more often. "This law allows for more thorough document checks", deputy Yuri Krizsky, one of the measure’s sponsors, told reporters. "Most people trying to enter Ukraine or pass through to the West remain for a time in border areas to check them out".

Soviet border regions had control zones up to 50 km wide which foreigners needed special permission to visit. Controls were toughest at western frontiers.

9,787 people, most from southeast Asia, were caught last year trying to cross Ukraine’s western border to Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. Numbers are about the same this year. In June, border guards among others stopped groups of Kurds and Indian nationals and discovered 42 illegal Chinese migrants in a sealed refrigerator truck abandoned near the Slovak border.

A spokesman for Ukraine’s border guards, Sergei Astakhov, said 58,000 border violators had been arrested since independence in 1991, about half of them illegal migrants. "This law will make our job easier, but it won’t put an end to all our problems", Astakhov said. "An impoverished state has trouble reliably protecting its borders. Sometimes we don’t even have enough petrol to follow up a call".


Source: Reuter, 18.6.96