“I will not fight!” — But no asylum in Germany for Ukrainian men refusing to go to war; Ukrainian ambassador sabotages their asylum

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“War-torn Donetsk region: Many Ukrainians turn their back on their home.”

Nadja ERB and Viktor FUNK
In Frankfurter Rundschau, January 18, 2016

Translated from German by Tom Winter, January 26, 2016

Ukrainians facing deportation
Thousands of Ukrainian refugees in Germany are receiving requests to leave; they have hardly any chance of asylum. Neighbors and friends are fighting against their deportation.

Thousands of Ukrainian refugees in Germany are threatened with deportation. More than 7,000 Ukrainians have fled to Germany because of the war in the east and have asked for asylum here.

Many of them have received negative decisions in the last few weeks, including the Nykonchuk family, and Grigorij Demnychenko. They came with a Schengen visa into the country, thus subject to the Dublin regulation. Their applications must be reviewed by the EU Member States that had granted the Visa.

Some of the escapees are directly from the war zone, so the family Nykonchuk. Others wanted no part of a war which they reject. Especially last winter, when the government in Kiev was calling up more and more men for the fight against the separatists and their Russian support, many left the country, including Grigorij Demnychenko. He currently lives with six other Ukrainians in a house for refugees in Bavarian Kitzingen. Shortly after he applied for asylum in April, the local authority at Zirndorf informed him that Poland, not Germany, was responsible for him, because Demnychenko came in with a Polish tourist visa.

They want no part of the war

Demnychenko is 27 years old, is an electrical engineer, and is a godsend for the midsize company FEZ Electronics in Bibergau. “We’ve been looking for someone for a long time, but we found no Germans, so the boss thought, let’s just ask among the asylum seekers,” reported the company spokesman Andrea Gumbmann. The company hired two refugees and is happy with their job performance. “We’re hoping they stay with us.”

The Nykonchuk family has a similar story. Father Sergei, mother Lena, and the daughters Albina (16) and Ella (14) came in April from embattled Donetsk into Bavarian Rauhenebrach. The father has a steady job in a construction company, the family was independent of government assistance, the daughters were in normal school classes, but they are threatened at anytime with deportation to Spain. 

The Nykonchuks indeed came directly to Germany, but with a Spanish visa, because it was easier to get. To avoid getting deported, the family now lives in a Protestant congregation in church asylum. They want to hold out until the end of March, when the deportation order will be six months past, and Germany is responsible for them.

Grigorij Demnychenko and the Nykonchuks are examples of many cases of Ukrainians who could serve as role models for integration. 

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Unfortunately, given the current refugee debate in Germany, they have to worry about being expelled. Just last week politicians from the CSU [Christian Social Union] party requested that Ukraine be declared a safe country of origin. Already a Ukrainian asylum seeker is hardly recognized in Germany as a refugee.

Ukrainian asylum rejections

In the years 2014 and 2015 some 7,000 Ukrainians came to Germany, applying for asylum. Most of them came last year; there are slightly more men than women among applicants.

When Demnychenko talks about his case, his words come fast, the voice gets louder. He fears  that he would be recognized, and would face persecution back home. [Like Ruslan Kotsaba! –tr] All the more so because of Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, asserting that deserters have nothing to fear: “These men shouldn’t have any fear of prosecution or baiting” Melnyk proclaimed in October.

But the case of Ruslan Kotsaba is evidence that the reality is different. The Ukrainian journalist publicly stated a year ago that he would refuse induction into the army, and was jailed and is being charged with treason.

Demnychenko himself reports there’s a poisoned atmosphere in his hometown in Nikopol, Central Ukraine. Two acquaintances were attacked because they had not served. “The guys who’ve been at the front, are now threatening those who did not fight, that’s a madhouse,” he says. He points to cell phone pictures of the injured friends. They were cut with knives in the face.

The Nykonchuks report discrimination after their escape from the war zone into Western Ukraine. They could not get work or even a place to live.

Legally, Demnychenko’s case and others like it are clear: given the Polish or Spanish visas to other countries, they are responsible for the issue of asylum. On top of that, war is not in itself a reason for asylum. The battle area is also localized. Demnychenko, when these factors are recited to him in the interview, takes a deep breath and reports of other attacks in his home, on women who are abused because their men did not serve, and of broken friendships, and his cousin, who is at the front and sends him pictures of ruined neighborhoods. 

“I will not fight,” says the 27-year-old, “I just want to live normally.”

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