How a transgender Chechen escaped Russia and found asylum in the United States

CHICAGO — When Leyla arrived in the United States after being smuggled over the Mexican border, she showed her passport to the Border Patrol officers who found her. 

Then she said one of the few words she knew in English: “Asylum.”

The border guards may not have known it at the time, but the passport wasn’t just a travel document; it was stark evidence that Leyla needed refuge. It showed that she was born in the Russian republic of Chechnya — and that she was born and raised as a man.

How Russia Makes—and Humiliates—Refugees

Civil Assistance is the only legal aid organization helping tens of thousands of refugees fleeing war zones where Russia is fighting.

Salekh carried a slender black leather briefcase and his long, skinny fingers were running nervously all over it, drumming as if on piano keys. Several times during the interview he unzipped the folder to pull out two envelopes, the letters from the court rejecting his petition to stay in Russia.

‘The Problem of Mass Migration Must Be solved, Not Resisted’

Anastasia Denisova, an alumna of the MA in ‘Understanding and Securing Human Rights’ (2015-2016), School of Advanced Study, University of London interviewed Svetlana Gannushkina, the Director of ‘Civic Assistance’ NGO (Moscow) and a 2016 laureate of the prestigious Right Livelihood Award for ‘her decades-long commitment to promoting human rights and justice for refugees and forced migrants, and tolerance among different ethnic groups’.

Dear Ms Gannushkina, congratulations with receiving the award that is more well-known as an Alternative Peace Nobel Prize! It is indeed well-deserved.

Refugees Trapped in Russian Airport Win Compensation Payout

Russia has been ordered to pay more than 80,000 euros ($86,870) to four men forced to live in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport while applying for asylum.

Three of the men, from Iraq, Palestine and Syria, were forced to wait in the airport for more than five months after being turned away at the Russian border. The fourth man, a Somalian national, lived in the transit zone for almost two years before giving up on his asylum application.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Russia had deprived the men of their liberty and subjected them to “inhumane treatment.”

The men survived thanks to weekly deliveries of food and toiletries by Russia’s UN Refugee Committee, but were not given access to basic facilities such as showers, the ECtHR found.

Novaya Gazeta Journalist Threatened With Expulsion To Uzbekistan

In the morning of March 17 Moscow police detained uzbek journalist Khudoberdi Nurmatov. He has been working as a correspondent with the Novaya Gazeta, and is now threatened with extradition to Uzbekistan, where he could be tortured.

In journalism, Nurmatov is also known as pseudonym Ali Feruz.  The chief of the Novaya Gazeta investigatory department, Olga Bobrova, writes, “Khudoberdi is Ali’s name by passport but it’s the name which makes one’s life in Moscow difficult. Therefore, he has been working under pseudonym in journalism”.

Migrants Still Try To Make It From Russia To Norway

Two groups of people aimed for Scandinavia, but were stopped by the FSB.

Two Iranian citizens were on 26th February detained in Nikel, the Russian border town, ahead of an alleged illegal border-crossing to Norway. According to Interfax, the migrants had with them snowshoes, a tent, warm clothes and other items for harsh winter survival. The Iranians were forced by the FSB to buy air tickets back to Moscow and then return to Iran, the news agency writes.

Russian Court Saves North Korean Defector From Deportation

A court in Russia’s Leningrad region dismissed the case against Choi Myung-bok, a North Korean defector set to be deported for violating migration laws, the Memorial human rights group reported Monday. Choi no longer faces deportation to North Korea, where he would most likely be executed for fleeing the labor camp he was sent to. He plans to apply for official refugee status once again.

Choi, 54, lives in a small town in the Leningrad region with his Russian partner and their two children. In 1999, North Korean authorities sent him to a labor camp in the Russian Far Eastern Amur region, which he fled in 2002.

Pilot Stops Flight to Allow Deported Refugees to Remain in Russia

A Russian pilot is reported to have stopped a scheduled flight to allow two Yemeni refugees in the process of being deported to leave the plane.

One of the two asylum seekers was contacted by refugee charity Civil Assistance as they boarded the plane at St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport, the Deutsche Welle news outlet reported Thursday.

A translator for the group told the cabin crew via telephone that the men wanted to leave the plane and would be in danger in their native country.

“Our translator told the stewardess there was real danger waiting for these men in Yemen,” Civic Assistance employee Yelena Burtin told Deutsche Welle. “She reported it to the pilot.

Why Syrian Refugees Don’t Go to Russia

Noginsk, a Russian provincial town about 40 miles from Moscow, is widely known as a place where the first monument to Lenin was established. It is also traditionally known by its industries, especially textile production. Recently, however, the town has become known as the place with the largest group of Syrian refugees in Russia.

Mohammad Al-Fallah, 32, came to Noginsk from Aleppo in 2013. He came to Noginsk, as many others did, to avoid war and with the hope of finding a home and peace.

For Russia’s Labor Migrants, a Life on the Edge

In slum settlements on the outskirts of Moscow, foreign workers are adjusting to the realities of Russia’s economic crisis.

Not so long ago, the migrant population of Chelobityevo in northern Moscow lived in fear of the police. These were times when uniformed officers would descend on the village unannounced, beating and arresting undocumented workers in their path.

Chechen Asylum Seekers Stranded in Belarus

Chechen asylum seekers say they are stranded in ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’ and are turned away at Polish border.

Brest, Belarus –  At noon each day, the small, echoing arrivals hall of the Soviet-era train station in the Belarusian city of Brest is lined with people waiting to meet relatives who have been turned away from the border with Poland.

“We do not know if they made it, ” says an elderly Chechen woman waiting with her daughter as she watches the wooden arrivals doors. Like many others at the train station, her family has been divided as some members have attempted to cross into Poland.

Of the hundreds who attempt the crossing each day, only one or two families are typically permitted to enter.