Influence State Migration Service - let Soldado Kowalisidi stay in Ukraine!

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My name is Soldado, and I am asking you to sign this petition to change the migration policy of Ukraine - to help me and other refugees from authoritarian post-Soviet countries: journalists, human rights defenders, activists, who face the risk of torture and persecution in our home countries.

I am a trans activist. Two years ago, I had to leave behind my home in Siberia to escape from persecution I faced as a trans man in Russia.

In Russia, a country well known for its anti-LGBT policies, my activism had its unfortunate consequences. Five times, I was brutally beaten in the street by groups of state-backed "activists" - once, with a police officer standing by and doing nothing to stop it. When I tried to file a statement with the police, they rejected it, saying things like, "Serves you right." In 2016, after the FSB made sure both I and my trans initiative were powerless and my attackers threatened to kill me, I escaped towards an uncertain future in Ukraine.

Here, I found the home I never expected to find. I met my partner, we got married. For the first time in what felt like forever, I felt safe again.

I came to Ukraine hoping for safety and freedom, because the citizens of this country are bravely fighting against the same regime that I had been trying to fight from within. Here, I found family, friends and allies. I try to put my knowledge to good use in Ukraine - with my EU education, command of seven languages and experience in human rights trainings, I deliver lectures on international relations and volunteer for an international human rights organization. I want to use my resources for Ukraine's benefit. I want to build a life and future here.

Unfortunately, that is not how the Migration Service of Ukraine sees it. In November, I was denied refugee status in Ukraine and am now appealing this decision in the court.

According to the Migration Service, I wouldn't be in any danger if I were to go back to Russia. They don't believe me. The very thought gives me a panic attack. Jail, torture, rape - this is what awaits me in Russia as a trans activist who dared to challenge the authoritarian system.

I am just one person among numerous social and political activists from post-Soviet authoritarian countries. Most of them are rejected by the Migration Service for no good reason in violation of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner recommendations and a variety of international agreements on refugees. The work of this bureaucratic institution is so obscure that they don't have to justify their decisions to anyone, readily sending activists who risked their life to come to Ukraine back to their home countries. They are active, qualified people who are ready to work for the benefit of their new home country - if only it allowed them.

To Ukraine, it's a question of less than one U.S. dollar of social "aid" to anyone granted refugee status. To asylum seekers, it's usually a question of life and death. It is also their only chance, after failing to conquer the unbeatable system from within, to continue their fight for human rights and democracy in the region from outside.

Please, sign the petition to help me and other people who have found home in Ukraine stay here.

We demand:

- to grant Soldado Kowalisidi (passport name S.A. Koval) refugee status on the territory of Ukraine

- humane treatment of asylum seekers - nowhere in Ukraine have I ever faced as much humiliation as in the Migration Service;

- to grant refugee status to all activists who fight against authoritarian regimes and have good reason to obtain the status in accordance with the international law

- investigation of instances of corrupt and obscure practices in the activity of the Migration Service which were publicly mentioned by National Anti-Corruption Bureau;

- to reform the work of the State Migration Service of Ukraine with asylum seekers, namely, to establish clear and transparent procedures of granting refugee status and define the criteria for granting refugee status in accordance with the international law, in particular, UNHCR recommendations

For reference:

In 2016, the rejection rate of asylum seekers in Ukraine was 86% (656 applied, 71 obtained refugee status or subsidiary protection).

The State Migration Service of Ukraine appears to have no internal procedural documents establishing clear criteria for granting refugee status.

There is no evidence that the Service officials follow any international explanatory documents in their work, such as Handbook and Guidelines on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees by UNHCR.

The decisions of the Migration Service are not published in any open registries and it does not seem to account for them to any higher authority. In combination with the lack of clear criteria, it creates favorable conditions for subjective decision-making and corruption.

January 17th at 9:15 is my first trial with State Migration Service, and I would be very grateful for every signature - it will be a great support for me in my struggle for the freedom of me and others.

Every 113th person on Earth is an asylum seeker. I'm this 113th person.

Sincerely yours,

Soldado Kowalisidi (S. A. Koval)

Letter of support to Soldado Kowalisidi from Member of the European Parliament Rebecca Harms: 

Letter of support to Soldado Kowalisidi from international non-governmental organisation Front Line Defenders: 

Letter of support to Soldado Kowalisidi from international foundation Urgent Action Fund:

Letter of support to Soldado Kowalisidi from international non-governmental organisation Freedom House:

Letter of support to Soldado Kowalisidi from international non-governmental organisation Transgender Europe:

Letter of support to Soldado Kowalisidi from the Project of Legal Aid for Transgenders in RF:

Letter of support to Soldado Kowalisidi from Russian LGBT-Network:

Letter of support to Soldado Kowalisidi from Ukrainian Information Center for Human Rights:

Letter of support to Soldado Kowalisidi from Civic Union Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv:

Letter of support to Soldado Kowalisidi from All-Ukrainian NGO Gay-Alliance Ukraine: