Umu’s Story. 6 months of detention to be able to live freely in Ukraine

Umu Diallo was born in Guinea. Today the woman lives and works in Odesa, Ukraine. She makes professional hairstyles that are especially popular during the holiday season, and also runs her own shoe store. She has a 2 y.o. daughter, Rugiyatu.

Umu has been living in Ukraine since 2011. In 2012, she received the status of a person in need of complementary protection. As the woman says, she divides her life into what was before and after. And the starting point is 2011 when she tried to cross the border of Ukraine and was detained.

Umu could not stay in Guinea because she was forced to marry as a minor. Her husband systematically beat and mocked her, and she had absolutely no single chance to protect herself in this country. At the time of her detention, the woman was in a state of psychophysical stress, which doctors said was due to domestic violence in Guinea.

At first, the situation she got in Ukraine gave enough reason for despair. Umu was detained together with a group of other forced migrants. All of them were placed in the Temporary Holding Facility of the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) in order to identify and later deport them from Ukraine. The young woman did not understand the language and legal grounds for her detention, and she also had health problems due to her suffering. 

The fact that Umu was a minor at the moment of detention was not established immediately, but when it was, in violation of all existing norms, SBGS continued to keep her in the Temporary Holding Facility for Foreigners and Stateless Persons. When Umu received legal aid, the decision to detain her was appealed, but this complaint was considered by the court only after her release from custody. Lawyers also helped Umu apply to the State Migration Service of Ukraine for international protection.

Umu was released from Temporary Holding Facility only a year after her detention. Two months after detention she applied for international protection.  Umu was detained illegally for almost 6 months. Women's lawyers have failed to achieve justice in national courts, so in 2012 they applied to the European Court of Human Rights.

In this case (Nur and Others v. Ukraine), the European Court of Human Rights found that Ukraine had violated Article 5 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: the right to liberty and security of a person. Ukraine was obliged to pay Umu 9,800 euros in moral damages.

Now the woman finally feels happy! She says that after the end of the quarantine restrictions she is ready to take up her work actively, she really wants her daughter to acquire Ukrainian citizenship and build her life in the country that provided her with protection!

According to Svitlana Butenko, advocate at the Charitable Fund “Right to Protection” (R2P), violations of the rights of asylum seekers from different countries are still occurring in Ukraine. This includes the impossibility of access to international protection at the border and in places of detention, as well as the excessive length of proceedings for appeals against illegal decisions of the authorities in the courts.

«The story of Umu gives us the opportunity to show the real people behind the numerous “compensation stories”, as well as to tell the world about their sufferings. No matter where these people are now – in remand prisons, Migrant Accommodation Centers, Temporary Holding Facilities, regardless of how they entered the country – legally or illegally. Yet the main thing is that all seekers of protection have the right to liberty, and detention must be justified in every single case. »

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