Why do the Russian authorities neither accept Syrian asylum-seekers nor allow them to leave?

posted 15 Jan 2017, 12:58 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 Jan 2017, 12:59 ]
26 December 2016

Source: HRO.org [original source:The 'Right to Asylum' programme of the Institute of Human Rights]

A few Syrians are being held in a temporary reception centre for foreign citizens in Izhevsk. In the summer, they approached the local department of the Federal Migration Service with a request for asylum in Russia but, instead of accepting their application, the local authorities arrested them on the grounds that they had infringed the regulations regarding migration.

The local court ordered the deportation of the Syrians but, fearing for their lives if they returned to Syria, they turned to the European Court on Human Rights. The ECtHR reacted swiftly and ordered the government to refrain from deporting the applicants until the case was reviewed by the ECtHR, and the local authorities placed them in custody to await the review.

After being held in the Migration Service’s Special Temporary Detention Centre for foreign citizens for more than six months, two of the Syrians, reckoning that the chances of being granted asylum in Russia were so slight that it made little sense to wait for the ECtHR decision in their prison-like conditions, decided to leave voluntarily, to pay their own way to the Lebanon and try to get asylum there.

But to no avail – the local police authorities refused to allow them to leave for Lebanon and suggested they withdraw their case before the ECtHR. The European Court confirmed that its decision related only to the compulsory deportation of the applicants and did not prevent their voluntarily leaving the country. But the police continue to insist that the applicants’ deportation can only be involuntary, and only after the ECtHR has reached a decision, and that until then they remain in the Detention centre.

The Syrians are quite confused. Russia wishes to deport them, but will not allow them to leave of their own volition and, while waiting for the ECtHR decision, has already held them in custody for more than six months for an offence for which custody is not proscribed by law.

Are they being penalized for defending their rights before the European Court or is it an attempt to persuade them to return to Syria and not to try to find safety somewhere else?

The applicants’ representatives have turned to the Prosecutor General, to the Federal Service of Court Bailiffs, and the Office of the RF Representative to the ECtHR, but have as yet received no reply.

Translated by Mary McAuley