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Russian passport has become a “toxica asset”. 2022 migration statisitcs: 277 official “refugees”, decreased interest in RF citizenship



According to the statistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia (hereinafter referred to as MIA), as of 31 December 2022, only 277 people had the status of “refugee”, which is 54 less than a year earlier (331 people as of 31 December 2021) and 17 less than a quarter earlier (294 people as of 30 September 2022). For the whole of 2022, only 12 people were granted refugee status by the Russian authorities. The total amount of people granted refugee status during 2022 (12 people) as well as the number of people with this status at the end of the year (277) are new anti-record numbers in the history of the Russian Federation. Never before in Russia has there been such a small number of the refugees granted recognition by the authorities.

Russia also has a ‘temporary asylum’ status, which differs from ‘refugee’ status in that it gives less rights and is only granted for ‘up to one year’, and the procedure for extension is not much different from reapplying for this status, which keeps the refugee in constant fear of losing asylum. Thus, according to the Ministry of Interior’s statistics, temporary asylum was granted 98,632 times in the whole of 2022. The vast majority of those granted (97 591 or 99%) were from Ukraine. As of 31 December 2022, 67,496 persons had been granted temporary asylum. The large majority of them (97%) were also from Ukraine.

What is striking is that the amount of people granted temporary asylum during 2022 is higher than the amount of people who had this status at the end of the year. What is the reason for this? The answer is that some of the natives of Ukraine who were granted this status in 2022 either left Russia, obtained temporary residence permits, residence permits, or naturalized into Russian citizenship.

Russian passport has become a "toxica asset". 2022 migration statisitcs: 277 official "refugees", decreased interest in RF citizenship
Table 1. Number of persons with refugee or temporary asylum status (according to the RF Ministry of Interior)

With this statistic in 2022, high-ranking Russian government officials repeatedly reported that hundreds of thousands of refugees have allegedly “arrived” in the Russian Federation every month since the end of February. Thus, on November 18, 2022, A.M. Suprunovsky, Deputy Minister of Emergency Situations of Russia, reported that 4 million 790 thousand refugees from Ukraine had allegedly already arrived in Russia since February 18, 2022. In December, the Russian state media replicated reports that the number of “arrived” refugees had allegedly exceeded the five million. But it should be noted that the Interior Ministry’s statistics about asylum does not in any way indicate the forced arrival of millions of refugees from Ukraine to the Russian Federation in 2022.

Russian citizenship

In 2021, 735,385 people obtained Russian citizenship through the Ministry of Interior only (Russian citizenship is also accepted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), which is an all-time record in the history of the Russian Federation (if the mass issuance of Russian passports in Crimea is not counted). More than half of those granted Russian citizenship in 2021 were Ukrainian citizens (375,989), who used the simplified procedure for obtaining Russian citizenship. It was introduced in 2019-2020; it was also extended to the citizens of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Ukraine (see Art. 14, part 1, point “k” of the Law “On Citizenship of the Russian Federation”). For more information on the statistics for 2021, see here.

In 2022, the authorities of the Ministry of Internal Affairs accepted Russian citizenship 6% less than the year before, namely 691,045 people. The number of natives of Ukraine is 20% less than in 2021 (303,786 people). The decrease could have been even bigger, but in the third quarter of 2022, the Ministry of Internal Affairs issued a peak quarterly number of Russian passports (160,601) for Ukrainian citizens, which, as we noted in our previous review, is apparently directly related to the so-called “referendums” on September 23-27, 2022 in that part of Donbas, Zaporizhia and Kherson Oblast which are or were controlled by the Russian armed forces. Let us remind you that on October 12, 2022 UN General Assembly by a vast  majority of votes adopted the Resolution ES-11/4 which condemned illegal actions of the Russian Federation within the above-mentioned territories.

Yet already by the fourth quarter of year 2022 the number of immigrants from Ukraine naturalized by the bodies of the Russian Ministry of  the Interior has decreased by four times right away and was 37 536 persons, which is the lowest quarterly index since 2019. Meanwhile, as statistics for the fourth quarter of 2022 is mainly based on the number of foreign citizens who applied for Russian citizenship in summer and September of 2022 only, we assume that interest in Russian passports will continue to fall. 

More than two thirds (69%) out of 691 045 persons who received Russian passports in 2022 are immigrants from two countries only, namely Ukraine (303 786 persons which is 44%) and Tajikistan (73 634 persons, or 25%). 98% out of the total number of people who obtained Russian passports in 2022 are immigrants from former and present CIS countries, which is 1% more than in 2021.

In 2022 Russian Ministry of the Interior issued more passports for the immigrants from only two out of eleven former  and present CIS countries – namely Tajik and Kyrgyz nationals. The most drastic decline in obtaining Russian citizenship was noted among the immigrants from Belarus (- 38%), Moldova (-36%) and Georgia (-32%). 

Russian passport has become a "toxica asset". 2022 migration statisitcs: 277 official "refugees", decreased interest in RF citizenship
Table 2. Number of persons (depending on the country of previous citizenship), obtained Russian citizenship (according to the data of the Ministry of the Interior of the Russian Federation)

Thus out of all the former and present CIS countries only Kyrgyzstan and mainly Tajikistan nationals received more Russian passports than year before. Let’s find out why at the time when citizens of the majority of former Soviet Union republics showed an accelerating fall of interest in Russian citizenship, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan nationals had been demonstrating the opposite trend. There are a number of reasons for that but the most obvious is GDP per capita rate. Tajikistan is the poorest post-Soviet country. According to UN estimates 30 % of its citizens suffer from malnutrition. Kyrgyzstan is rated the second poorest post-Soviet country after Tajikistan. Yet despite the fact that Uzbekistan holds third position in post-Soviet countries poverty rating, in 2022 its citizens demonstrated a fall of interest in Russian passports which resulted in a decrease of number of Uzbekistan nationals who obtained Russian citizenship by 15% compared to 2021.

It is necessary to emphasize once again that this is not about Russian authorities denying the naturalization for those who seek it but precisely about the decrease in the number of people interested in Russian citizenship. The trend is evidently highlighted by the drastic decline in number of Kazakhstan, Belarus and Moldova nationals who received Russian passports in 2022. Recall that in 2020 Russian authorities eased RF citizenship requirements for the citizens of above mentioned countries (and Ukrainian nationals as well) which really led to an increase in the number of those who  received Russian passports in 2021, yet apparently had not helped in 2022.

What is the reason for the fall of interest in Russian citizenship even among the citizens of former USSR countries? From our point of view, the current political, economical and social situation in the Russian Federation makes Russian citizenship using the financial term “a toxic asset”. Eventually for many foreign nationals who actually dreamt of Russian passports even in 2021, since February 24, 2022 not only this “asset” has hugely devalued but started to be viewed as “toxic” meaning the asset of negative value as its acquisition leads to enormous risks (for men of military age especially).

Thus the overview of 2022 migration statistics shows that Russian authorities have de facto abolished “refugee” status. Statistics on granting “temporary asylum” status does not suggest arrival of millions of refugees from Ukraine to the Russian Federation and their presence herein. Statistics on granting Russian citizenship by the bodies of the Ministry of the Interior shows the decline of foreign citizens’ interest to obtain the Russian passport.

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