Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis

Russian Migration Authorities (now part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation) managed to set several abysmal records in 2017. The key findings of this are:

  • The lowest number of official holders of “refugee status” since 2007 (592 individuals)
  • The lowest number of people having successfully applied to be recognized as a refugee since 2009 (619 individuals)
  • The lowest number of individuals recognized as refugees since 2005
  • The lowest number of temporary asylum holders since 2008 (2008 individuals), (excluding Ukrainian citizens);
  • The lowest number of Ukrainian nationals recorded/register by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation holding temporary asylum since 2013.

Situation in the world and in Russia

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), by the end of 2017 the number of displaced persons across the world had grown by 2,9 million worldwide in comparison to the previous year, reaching 68,5 million individuals (OR has reached 68,5 million individuals, an increase of 2,9 million on the previous year. Of this number, 25,4 million individuals were refugees (from 22,5 million in 2016), 40 million were persons internally displaced within the country of their citizenship, and 3,1 million were individuals seeking asylum. This is the largest number of refugees on record since the Second World War.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis
Graph 1. Number of displaced persons, refugees and asylum seekers in the world between 2007 and 2016 (according to the data of the UNHCR).

In Russia, as of the end of 2017, just 592 individuals held official refugee status, in accordance with the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. This is the lowest number seen in years (since 2007). Slightly greater than 125 thousand individuals held temporary asylum, of which 98% (approximately 123 thousand) are Ukrainian citizens. If we include the refugees recognized by Russian migration authorities to those holding temporary asylum at the end of 2017, it turns out that the country with the largest territory in the world only provided asylum to 0,5% of all the refugees in the world. Despite the fact the overall number of refugees has been steadily increasing in the recent years worldwide, the number of individuals holding refugee status or temporary asylum in Russia has been rapidly decreasing following a rapid upsurge due to the conflict in Ukraine.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis
Graph 2. Number of individuals holding refugee status or temporary asylum in Russia at the end of the year and at the beginning of the following one between 2007 and 2017 (according to the data of the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation)

The Civic Assistance Committee has reported on multiple occasions that the institution of asylum is in a miserable condition in Russia. The current state of affairs was best described/covered in the 2015 report “Russia as a Country of Asylum”, published by Civic Assistance Committee. The main reasons for the lack of progress observed in 2017 has not changed from many previous years; there have been various, and sometimes ingenious, impediments and obstacles to applications for refugee status or temporary asylum, and barriers to the right to appeal rejected applications for asylum. Refugees and their representatives still faced hostility and were often denied filing documents for asylum in Russia at the reception office of the Migration Service for Moscow.

Within the last year, there have been further developments in the denial of the rights of migrants. To give an example of this, individuals coming to the department of the Migration Service for Moscow Oblast were getting picked up by police on a regular basis. They were charged with violating migration law, directly following the application of refugee status/asylum at the Migration Service. It is only after a hearing takes place and after proof of payment of a fine is presented that such individuals get another opportunity to access the procedure of asylum seeking. These scenarios were covered in the report «The Price of Refuge: Fines Brought Against Asylum Seekers» that was published on the website of the Civic Assistance committee in the autumn of 2017.

The overall, unchanging political attitude is the main reason of the sad, if not tragic, state of refugee rights in Russia. The direction refugee rights follows is directly prescribed by senior politicians, and whether the Russian migration authorities are able to accept significant groups of refugees or not, as it was the case with the natives of the two eastern regions of Ukraine. When there is no such instruction to allow this, migration authorities often deny any kind of asylum in a completely arbitrary way. Often only a judgment from the European Court of Human Rights can protect individuals who are likely to face torturesin their native/home countries after being forcibly expelled. However, as demonstrated by the situations of the Tadgik national Hurshed Odinaev and Chinese national Li Dan, applicants of the Civic Assistance Committee, even such a judgment does not necessarily mean that a person will be set free from a deportation center (known as “Center for Temporary Detention of Foreign Nationals”).

Below is the statistical data on the migration situation in Russia for 2017. It should be noted that the statistics which the authorities provide to the public, already scarce and reserved, became even less detailed in 2016. This situation did not improve in 2017. To give an example of this, the web page of the Main Directorate for Migration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation contains no statistical data on refugees at all. Certain figures are published by the Federal State Statistics Service, but some data that used to be made available to the public by the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation is now only available upon a specific request (to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation).

Notwithstanding the miserable state of the institution of asylum in Russia in 2016, the situation has not significantly improved in 2017 neither in quantitative nor in qualitative terms and has even deteriorated in several dimensions. For instance, as of 1 January 2018 there were just 592 holders of the official refugee status in the country. In addition to this, the number of temporary asylum holders decreased drastically, almost twofold.

Refugees Persons granted temporary asylum
As per 1 January 2018 As per 1 January 2017 As per 1 January 2017 As per 1 January 2016
Total 592 598 125442 228392
Azerbaijan 7 8 8 10
Afghanistan 305 292 356 417
Georgia 31 34 167 226
Kazakhstan 1 1 4 3
Kirgizstan 3 2 22 21
Russia
Syria 2 2 1128 1317
Tajikistan 7 7 16 26
Turkmenistan 5 7
Uzbekistan 19 18 60 82
Ukraine 166 188 123434 226044
Other countries 51 49 242 241

Chart 1. Breakdown of refugees and persons granted temporary asylum by countries of former residence (according to the data of the Federal State Statistics Service).

It is worth reminding ourselves that foreign citizens seeking asylum are eligible to be granted:

  • Refugee status corresponding to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (albeit with important reservations that have been analyzed in detail in the report “Russia as a Country of Asylum”).
  • Temporary asylum status, in accordance with the law, “provided that there are grounds to recognize the person as a refugee as follows from examination of the data on the person and the family members who arrived with the person, including the circumstances of their arrival to the territory of the Russian Federation or existence of humane reasons requiring temporary presence of the said person within the territory of the Russian Federation”.

In theory, there is also a special status of political asylum based on the Decree of the President of Russia of 21 July 1997 №746. Moreover, on paper, this law is still valid and the status is still obtainable, proven by the fact that certain changes have been introduced to it in 2012. In spite of this law having already existed for 21 years, according to the information of the Civic Assistance Committee, this status has only ever been granted to one person.

Refugee status in 2017

Since the end of the 90s, the number of individuals holding the official refugee status in Russia has decreased hundreds of times, falling from 240 thousand at the end of 1997, to 592 persons at the end of 2017 (a decrease by a factor of 400). Since 2008, the number of holders of refugee status in Russia has been fluctuating between 600 and 800. But in 2016, this figure has even crossed the lower limit of this with 598 individuals, and then dropped further to 592 in 2017.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis
Graph 3. Number of persons holding refugee status in the Russian Federation as of the end of the year or the beginning of the following one between 1997 and 2017 (according to the data of the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation)

As for the origins of those holding the precious refugee status by the end of 2017, 85% of all the holders were natives of three countries: Afghanistan (305 individuals), Ukraine (166 individuals) and Georgia (31 individuals). Altogether there were nationals of 23 countries holding refugee status.

In 2017, the number of persons who managed to file a petition to be recognized refugees in Russia reached the lowest of all the time, supported by records held by the Civic Assistance Committee starting in 2009. The reasons for this are the above-mentioned actions of the migration authorities, that not only do not make the petitioning procedure and information on it more available for the public, but conversely often impede the filing of documents, and refuse to consider the petition on the merits. As a result, over the course of the year, throughout Russia, just 619 persons seeking asylum managed to file a petition to be recognized refugee, according to the data of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

But even out of those several hundred people who managed to overcome the barriers constructed by migration authorities, only 33 were granted the status by the officials, the smallest number since 2005.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis
Graph 4. Number of those who managed to file a petition to be granted refugee status and of those who were granted refugee status in the Russian Federation as of the end of a year between 2009 and 2017 (according to the data of the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation)

That being said, according to the data of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, as of the end of 2017, in more than 50 of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation there was NOT A SINGLE refugee. To explore a few of these, in the whole Far Eastern Federal District (9 regions), there were only 4 individuals with refugee status registered with migration services, 3 individuals in Ural Federal District (7 regions), and not a single refugee in the giant Siberian Federal District (12 regions).

Federal Districts of the  Russian Federation Number of individuals registered
Central 481
Northwest 23
South 15
North Caucasus 41
Volga 25
Ural 3
Siberian
Far East 4

Chart 2. Number of individuals holding refugee status registered with directorates on migration issues of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation as of the end of 2017 (according to the data of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation)

Temporary asylum in 2017

Temporary asylum in Russia is a “light” version of refugee status. In the case of temporary asylum, the state disclaims its full responsibility and only grants the status for the term of up to one year. Before 30 days of the term ending, that an individual must visit the migration service to extend this status, something which is quite a complicated procedure and almost identical to filing for the status for the first time. It is a common practice for Russian migration services to refuse prolongation of the status of temporary asylum for no valid reason. In fact, the status itself only allows a person to just stay for some time and work within the territory of Russia, without the state providing any assistance to the person with integration, adapting or settling there.

As of the end of 2017, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation had 125442 individuals holding temporary asylum status registered. 98% of them were citizens of just one country: Ukraine.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis

Graph 5. Number of individuals holding temporary asylum status in the Russian Federation as of the end of a year and the beginning of a following one between 2006 and 2017 (according to the data of the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation).

Putting the data on the citizens of Ukraine to one side, as of the end of 2017, there were just 2008 nationals of other countries holding temporary asylum in Russia. This figure is the abysmal low of the last 10 years. Out of this number, 80% were natives of 3 countries: Syria (1128 individuals), Afghanistan (356 individuals) and Georgia (167 individuals).

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis
Graph 6. Number of individuals holding temporary asylum status at the end of the year between 2006 and 2017, without counting the data on Ukrainian nationals (according to the statistical data of the Federal Migration Service and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation).

Considering statistical data on both statuses, the three leading countries by a number of citizens holding refugee status or temporary asylum in Russia as of the end of 2017 were Ukraine (123600 individuals), Syria (1130 individuals) and Afghanistan (661 individual). Natives of those 3 countries made up 99.5% of all those who were lucky enough to be granted refugee status or temporary asylum at the end of 2017.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis
Graph 7. Number of persons holding refugee status or temporary asylum and registered with the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia as of the end of 2017 (according to the data of the Ministry of Internal Affairs)

It is worth considering statistical data on refugees from Ukraine, Syria, and Afghanistan in more detail.

Ukrainian Refugees in Russia

Based on the statistical data of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, the number of citizens of Ukraine staying in the territory of Russia for the last year, if we compare the figures for October 1, 2016, and 2017, decreased by almost 10% or 248.2 thousand people.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis

Graph 8. Number of Ukrainian citizens (thousands of people) in the territory of the Russian Federation as of the indicated date (according to the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation)

Migration services (first, the Federal Migration Service of Russia and then the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation) had a clear instruction from top Russian authorities to grant temporary asylum to Ukrainian citizens from Lugansk and Donetsk regions, but there was no such instruction in regard of refugee status, hence only a small number receiving it. In 2014 migration services likely did not have any precise instructions, so while a large number of Ukrainian citizens were admitted to apply for refugee status, only 4% of them were granted the status. According to information, in 2015 officials already simply did not admit an applicant to apply for the status and the number of applications dropped by 20 times.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis

Graph 9. Number of Ukrainian citizens who managed to apply for refugee status, as well as citizens of Ukraine, who received refugee status in the Russian Federation at the end of the year from 2013 to 2017 (according to the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation)

Judging by the meager number of applications accepted/processed by migration services, it is not surprising that there are very few citizens from Ukraine who have held refugee status in Russia in the past five years.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis

Graph 10. Number of Ukrainian citizens who had refugee status in the Russian Federation at the end of the year from 2013 to 2017 (according to statistics of the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation)

In the case of granting temporary asylum to Ukrainian citizens, there was a very sharp decline in the number of applicants in 2017 compared to the peak in 2014;  and this decreased by 22 times (in what period of time) and compared to 2016  – by 2 times. Moreover, 2015 demonstrates that in case of indication from the top migration services grant status to almost everyone admitted to the procedure.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis

Graph 11. Number of Ukrainian citizens who managed to apply for temporary asylum status, as well as citizens of Ukraine, who received this status in the Russian Federation at the end of the year from 2013 to 2017 (according to the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation)

The number of Ukrainian citizens with temporary asylum declined rapidly in 2017 anddecreased by 2 times when compared to 2016.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief AnalysisGraph 12. Number of Ukrainian citizens who had temporary asylum status in the Russian Federation at the end of the year from 2013 to 2017 (according to the data of the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation)

In recent years, many Ukrainian citizens received temporary residence permits (TRP) and residence permits (RP). According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs statistics, at the end of 2017, there were 350 thousand Ukrainian citizens living in Russia with TRP or RP documents.

Temporary residence permit Residence permit
(TRP) (RP)
2017 2016 2017 2016
january-december january-december january-december january-december
Decisions made Residing with TPR Decisions made Residing with TPR Decisions made Residing with PR Decisions made Residing with PR
97 thousand 220 thousand 130 thousand 237 thousand 67 thousand 145 thousand 64 thousand 109 thousand

Chart 3. Number of Ukrainian citizen, who received TRP and RP as well as who reside in Russia with TRP and RP documents (according to Main Directorate for Migration Affairs of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russian Federation for the years 2016 and 2017)

In addition, 85.1 thousand Ukrainian citizens received Russian citizenship in 2017. If we evaluate the statistics from 2014 to 2017, not taking into account mass provision of Russian passports in Crimea, then 277,3 thousand Ukrainian citizens received Russian citizenship.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis

Graph 13. Number of Ukrainian citizens (thousands of people), who obtained Russian citizenship, not taking into account mass provision of Russian passports in Crimea (according to the statistics of Federal Migration Service and Main Directorate for Migration Affairs of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russian Federation for years 2014-2017)

But active provision of residence permits and temporary residence permits, as well as the mass acquisition of Russian citizenship by Ukrainians, only partially explains the sharp decline in the number of temporary asylum status holders from Ukraine. Because the number of Ukrainian citizens with temporary asylum status decreased for 102,6 thousand in 2017, while 85.1 thousand passports were issued, the number of residents living with TRP and RP remained almost the same. Obviously, the position of the Russian migration services had changed and they had become more reluctant to grant and extend temporary asylum to as many Ukrainian citizens as they did in 2014 and 2015.

Syrian refugees in Russia

According to the data of the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, at the date stated the number of Syrian citizens residing in the territory of the Russian Federation fluctuated around 8-10 thousand people from 2012 to 2017. Many of these people are refugees.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis

Graph 14. Number of Syrian citizens residing in the territory of the Russian Federation  at the date stated (according to the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation)

Nevertheless, throughout the years of military conflict (which started in 2011) Russian migration services refuse to  recognize Syrian citizens who reached Russia as refugees. Migration services approved only one of 2522 applications filed by Syrian citizens, which was in 2012. One more refugee from Syria was registered before the start of the a bloody conflict in this country. Therefore in total, over the last 6 years only TWO Syrian refugees were registered with Russian migration services. It is not surprising that the number of Syrian citizens’ applications for the recognition of refugee status has been constantly decreasing since 2013.

 Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis

Graph 15. Number of applications for refugee status recognition, submitted by Syrian citizens (according to the statistics of Federal Migration Service and Main Directorate for Migration Affairs of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russian Federation for years 2011-2017)

Since Russian started providing military support and assistance to already long-suffering Syria in 2015, the migration services’ attitude to Syrian refugees has worsened even further. Thus, the number of Syrian citizens with the status had been decreasing during the last three years and reached its lowest level since 2012.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis

Graph 16. Number of Syrian citizens who had temporary asylum status in the Russian Federation by the end of the year from 2011 to 2017 (according to the statistics of the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation)

In 2017 it became even harder to both to be admitted to application procedure for temporary asylum, and to receive this status after this. Looking at the figures for this, in 2013 67,1% of applicants received the status, in 2014 95,4% of applicants received it, in 2015 61,8% and in 2017 only 51,2%. These figures has been decreasing significantly with each year, reaching the lowest levels since 2012.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis

Graph 17. Number of Syrian citizens who managed to apply for temporary asylum status, and those who received this status in the Russian Federation by the end of the year from 2011 to 2017 (according to the data of the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation)

Refugees from Afghanistan in Russia

According to the data of the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, the number of Afghanistan citizens residing in Russia from 2012 to 2017, was about 8-10 thousand people. Many of these people are refugees.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis

Graph 18. Number of citizens of Afghanistan (thousands of people), residing in the territory of the Russian Federation as of the indicated date (according to the data of the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation)

A bloody armed conflict has been continuing for many years in Afghanistan, and is still considered to be one of the most troubled and dangerous countries in the world. Despite this, over the last five years the number of Afghanistan citizens with refugee status in Russia has significantly decreased. Only in 2017 there was any growth, 13 people in total.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis

Graph 19. Number Number of citizens of Afghanistan who had refugee status in the Russian Federation be the end of the years or the beginning of the previous year from 2008 to 2017 (according to the statistics of the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation)

The statistics regarding citizens of Afghanistan with temporary asylum status in Russia represent even darker picture. Over the last ten years their number has dropped almost threefold, and for the last four years it has halved, reaching the lowest figures in a decade of 356 people.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis

Graph 20. Number of citizens of Afghanistan who had temporary asylum status in the Russian Federation be the end of the year from 2008 to 2017 (according to the statistics of the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation)

But it cannot be said that the number of those who managed to apply for temporary asylum status has fallen sharply since 2011, and the number of those whose application for temporary asylum has been granted has decreased significantly less than three times. Apparently, the main reason is the sharp increase of refusals to extend temporary asylum for citizens of Afghanistan.

Degradation of the Institution of Asylum in Russia and the New Lows of Migration Services: 2017 Statistics with Brief Analysis

Graph 21.Number of citizens of Afghanistan who managed to file applications for temporary asylum status, and those who received that status by the end of the year from 2011 to 2017 (according to the data of the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation)

If we summarize the number of citizens of Afghanistan who had refugee status of temporary asylum by the end of 2017 (761 people), then this is the lowest number on record, based on statistical data from the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation (starting 2008).

______________________________________________________________

The poor records of Russian migration services in 2017, in addition to the figures related to refugees from certain countries, indicate  further degradation of institution of asylum in Russia and transformation of migration service into an anti-immigration repressive body. It seems the priority of officials is not to help support those in need of assistance, looking for a better life and opportunities, but to provide a system which is both complicated and flawed, meaning it becomes impossible for people to stay. This is evident in the number of official refugees in Russia and the number of those who manage to apply for temporary asylum. All this becomes the source of deep anxiety and concern.

At the same time the situation for refugees in the world remains very difficult; the number of people forced to leave their home countries is growing, meaning it is more important than ever to stop limited, defective and often inhuman thinking within the framework of certain national interests within a particular country, to understand that real human strength of the state lies not in the destructive power of weapons and in participating in bloody conflicts, but in the number of people who are granted asylum from the state, who gets help from the state to survive their troubles regardless of color, sex, age, social status and citizenship. But it is not just a call for state charity towards refugees. Humane attitudes and legal protection for refugees can only result from international commitments assumed by the Russian Federation. Currently, these responsibilities are something which government officials often consider unessential, trying to imitate activity or just openly mocking and abrogating the foundations of legal society

Konstantin Troitsky, Civic Assistance Committee

Translated by Daria Gorbacheva and Sofia Ismailova

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