Russian authorities wage war in Syria but refuse asylum to Syrian refugees

posted 8 Dec 2016, 14:09 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 8 Dec 2016, 14:09 ]
6 December 2016


The Russian authorities are refusing asylum to refugees from Syria, obstructing the process of documentation and deporting them from the country, justifying their actions by reference to the “improvement in the situation and the cessation of hostilities.”

RBC‘s coverage of the story is based on the report on “Syrian refugees in Russia” drawn up by the Civic Assistance Committee.

According to research by the authors of the document, Konstantin Troitsky and Svetlana Gannushkina, 7,096 Syrian nationals were living in Russia at the start of April.

Around 5 million people had left Syria in total over a seven-year period. The Syrians in Russia referred to in the report include diplomats and migrants who arrived prior to the commencement of military action.

In 2015, 8,205 Syrians were living in Russia.

Between 2011 and 2015, 2,011 Syrians applied for refugee status in Russia, but ONLY ONE of these applications was approved.

Applications for temporary asylum were submitted by 4,462 applicants, and 3,306 of these applications were granted.

Referring to the report, explains that temporary asylum status is only granted for one year and cannot be extended, however.

The Federal Migration Service refused to grant temporary asylum in 57 of 82 cases on which it ruled during the first half of 2016.

Temporary asylum was only granted in seven cases, and another 17 migrants were denied the chance to extend their right of residence in Russia by the authorities.

According to the report, the migration authorities began referring to an improvement in the situation in Syria to justify their refusals from March 2016 onwards.

Russian officials have issued recommendations that not only men, but also children and women, including pregnant women, should return to their home country.

After the conclusion of a ceasefire between President al-Assad and the moderate opposition in March, the Russian authorities began to refuse applications for asylum on the basis that the war in Syria was over.

In late January 2016, the department of the Federal Migration Service for the Moscow region refused to grant temporary asylum to a Syrian national on the grounds that “the situation in Syria is safe”, basing this view on the fact that the 43 leaders of the moderate opposition had signed a document on cessation of hostilities.

According to human rights activists, it is not uncommon for employees of the migration authorities to ask police officers to draw up reports on violations of the residence rules.

The refugee will then be hauled before a court and sentenced, with punishment being deportation beyond the country’s borders.

According to the report, convicted asylum seekers are sometimes placed in special prison-type temporary detention centres where they can wait for up to two years.

Bureaucratic hurdles also make it difficult for Syrians to regularise their situation in Russia: it is impossible to apply for asylum without the help of a lawyer, since applications from individuals are simply not admitted for proceedings by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Tatyana Lokshina, human rights activist and programme director at Human Rights Watch for Russia, has noted that despite Moscow’s direct involvement in the conflict, it does not provide refugees with any actual assistance; “Russia claims that it has made a major contribution to the fight against terrorism, but its actions reveal its view that others should deal with the problem of refugees."

In October 2015, the European Court of Human Rights found that Russia had infringed a number of articles of the European Human Rights Convention in a case involving three Syrian refugees. The applicants – two Syrian citizens and a stateless Palestinian from Syria – entered Russia in 2013.

According to the ECtHR ruling, Russia failed to discharge its obligations under Article 34 of the European Human Rights Convention (right of an individual to make an application to the Court) since the applicants were not allowed to meet with layers, as well as its obligations under two paragraphs of Article 5 on the right to liberty and security of person.

The Court’s ruling also stated that the applicants had provided sufficient evidence that their ordered expulsion to Syria, where military operations were ongoing, would be in breach of Article 2 (right to life) and Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment).

The Court found that the applicants should be released immediately, and that each should be paid EUR 9,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 8,600 for costs and legal expenses.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds