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AstapovLawyers and UNHCR Sign a Memorandum of Cooperation

May 2011

On 19 May 2011, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and AstapovLawyers International Law Group signed a Memorandum of Cooperation. According to that document, AstapovLawyers will render legal services to UNHCR on a pro bono basis as part of its corporate social responsibility programme, including legal analysis of the matters relating to the legal protection of refugees in Ukraine. As the first step in this direction, AstapovLawyers has carried out the legal analysis of judgements delivered in the cases of refugees and asylum seekers, offering its conclusions and recommendations to the general public.

Year 2011 is of special significance to refugees and forced migrants all over the world (including Ukraine) owing to the 60th anniversary of the approval of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees observed by all the parties involved. That document became a real global breakthrough, being the first step in the history of mankind to lay down the foundation for a universal understanding of responsibility for the protection of refugees and their rights throughout the world, regardless of the country.

It is impossible to overestimate the role of non-governmental organizations and companies in helping refugees and asylum seekers in Ukraine. Symbolically, in the year of the 60th anniversary of the 1951 UN Convention, AstapovLawyers International Law Group decided to offer legal analysis and assistance in the matters which relate to the refugee status in Ukraine on a pro bono basis, and to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the UNHCR as part of the company’s corporate social responsibility programme.

“This year we celebrate 60 years of the international refugee protection system which was joined by Ukraine 9 years ago”, says Oldrich Andrysek, the UNHCR Regional Representative for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. “Sadly, six decades after the ratification of the 1951 Convention, we still see systemic flaws in refugee protection in many countries including Ukraine. Therefore, the UNHCR always welcomes the willingness of the civil society and the legal community to assist the state in improving refugee protection which is an obligation of the Convention member states. Our new cooperation with AstapovLawyers International Law Group is the first example of such good practice, pro bono work for the benefit of the society, the positive consequences of which will be felt by not only those directly involved, but also by those who will see this example of willingness to resolve serious issues on a goodwill basis.”

Some of the needs of the refugees, and the ways to improve their legal situation can be understood from the analysis of court rulings in the cases of refugees made by AstapovLawyers experts in cooperation with the UNHCR. The analysis demonstrates the existing lacunae and improvement prospects of the court practice in cases which relate to the refugee status in Ukraine.

“AstapovLawyers is one of the few, if not the only, company in the Ukrainian market to be developing independent human rights protection practice. In the process of providing our services for the protection of rights, we have faced with the problem of the protection of refugees’ rights. That was when we found out that, despite the increasing importance of that issue for Ukraine, it is being paid extremely little attention, both by the government and, sadly, the “third sector”, says Ivan Lishchyna, coordinator of the Constitutional & Human Rights Law practice, AstapovLawyers International Law Group. “Establishing close cooperation with the UNHCR, we hope to draw the attention of civil society to the problems of refugees in Ukraine. Our participation in the UNHCR programmes is also aimed at harmonisation and quality improvement of the judgements delivered in the cases related to the granting of a refugee status, harmonisation of the Ukrainian law according to the international refugee protection standards.”

In order to have the recommendations made based on the analysis applied in practice, the UNHCR is hosting a special seminar for the judges of the administrative courts of Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, scheduled for 25-27 May 2011. The judges from the European Court of Human Rights are also expected to participate.

For more information, please contact Elena Karchova, PR Director, AstapovLawyers: +38 (044) 490 70 01,



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