In the middle of the most worrying conflict this region has seen in many years, the question of information is, of course, paramount. There are however occasions when it is truly difficult to fathom why an official has felt the need to open his mouth. The Head of the Kyiv Police deemed it necessary on Monday to assure journalists that the police were ready to maintain law and order should there be an upsurge in the number of migrants from the Caucuses due to the events in South Ossetia.
One might have hoped that Mr Yarema simply misinterpreted the silence from journalists as encouragement to keep talking, only the same public official in a very responsible position has felt the need to make general statements about migrants from the Caucuses on at least one other notorious occasion recently. Then he appeared to think the public should notify the police if they saw Georgians around cars (having stated that some Georgian nationals are known to be engaged in thefts from cars). This time, he stated: "The issue of migration of people from the Caucuses is today really of concern, including for the law enforcement agencies, since a very large number of people from the Caucuses come to Ukraine and they, most unfortunately, commit crimes."
It is vital that the police watch criminal gangs and take measures to counter criminal behaviour. Mr Yarema presumably has the statistics to justify his loose terms, such as a "very large number". There is, however, a fundamental difference between a large number and all migrants from a particular area, and such remarks at a time when a great many people are likely to be refugees seem anything but constructive.
Mr Yarema goes on to say that "We always welcome guests, we have no issues linked with xenophobia, however if these people come to commit crimes, we will, of course, document this and detain them in order to prosecute". He also said that the biggest problem for Kyiv came from offences committed by Georgian nationals.
I am not disputing that Mr Yarema may have figures to back his statistics, and there can of course be no question of concealing such information. I remain baffled however as to what purpose Mr Yarema`s comments were supposed to serve at a time like this. After all people in many Georgian areas were fleeing from bombs, while in Russia a large number of migrants at present have every reason to fear setting foot outside their homes.
And in the capital of Ukraine where the Police are supposedly making efforts to fight xenophobia and racism, we have a whole array of shocking articles in the media about "swarms of bandits" and so forth. I have no idea whether real criminals read such articles, however I would seriously doubt that such texts would fill them with fear and trembling. We do however also have a large number of people who commit no crimes, yet read not only these articles but the suspicious thoughts in the eyes of their neighbours and colleagues. And we have, to boot, a very specific welcome for people in fear of their lives.
By Halya Coynash,
Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group