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.
The Norwegian government continued construction of a fence at the Storskog border crossing in the Sor-Varanger province, along the border with Russia, Friday, after thousands of Syrian refugees reportedly fled into the country.
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.
Knowledge Day falls on Sept. 1 and marks the traditional start of the school year in Russia. But for the children of Syrian refugees who live in Noginsk, a town of about 100, 000 inhabitants that’s a 90-minute train ride from Moscow, it’s a day like any other.
These refugee children can’t go to a regular Russian school because they aren’t officially registered. Instead they go to a makeshift school in a shabby building where attendance is voluntary.
Russia’s contribution to meeting the needs of refugees displaced by the Syrian conflict has been negligible, while its military involvement in the conflict has been significant. Russia should use the upcoming summit meetings on the global refugee crisis to make commitments to share responsibility for refugees in line with its capacity.
The United Nations Refugee and Migration Summit will be held on September 19, 2016, followed by a Leaders’ Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis the next day. Russia should also address serious shortcomings in its asylum system that are preventing most Syrian asylum seekers who have made it to Russian territory from receiving the protection they are entitled to under international law.
As many as a several hundred Chechens fleeing the regime of Ramzan Kadyrov are reported to be trapped on the Polish border in Belarus. Belsat TV, a Belarusian opposition channel based in Warsaw, reported that some refugees had been camping “for months” after being refused entry to the country.
Poland’s Interior Minister Mariusz Błaszczak has already announced that Warsaw has no intention of accepting the refugees. “There is no war in Chechnya, unlike some years ago, ” he said. Błaszczak called the situation “an attempt to open another route for the influx of Muslims to Europe, ” and claimed “as long as I am interior minister and as long as Law and Justice [Poland’s ruling party] is in power, we will not put Poland in danger of terrorism.”
Poland’s nationalist government has pursued an anti-refugee policy since coming to power in November last year and has faced accusations of xenophobia.
Norway is building a steel fence at its arctic border with Russia after an influx of thousands of refugees last year.
The new fence, which will be around 660 feet long and 11 feet high, will stretch from the Skorskog border point, sources in the Norwegian government told Reuters. Construction of the fence is due to finish before winter frosts set in, making it harder to enter Norway through the forest.
Since Russia’s oldest charity organization dealing with refugee and migrant issues was labeled a “foreign agent, ” it has lost the backing of all state services but has gained the support of ordinary people, says head of the Civic Assistance Committee Svetlana Gannushkina.
Compared with many other countries of the world, Russia receives a relatively small number of refugees (people from Syria and Africa prefer to seek asylum mainly in neighboring countries and in Europe). Yet refugees do come to Russia too and perhaps the only organization that deals with their problems for real is the Civic Assistance NGO.
However the Civic Assistance Committee has come up against numerous problems in its operations since April 2015, when it was entered on the list of NGOs performing the functions of “foreign agents” under controversial amendments to the law “On non-commercial organizations, ” passed by the Russian State Duma in 2012.
The label applies to those NGOs that are engaged in “political activity” in Russia and receive “funds and other assets from foreign states, international and foreign organizations, foreign nationals and persons without citizenship.”
Svetlana Gannushkina, head of the Civic Assistance Committee and one of Russia’s leading human rights activists, sat down with RBTH to discuss the situation facing the organization.
RBTH: Has the attitude to the Civic Assistance Committee changed since you were labeled as a “foreign agent”?
Human rights campaigners Svetlana Gannushkina and journalist Maksim Shevchenko have announced that they will be seeking to represent the North Caucasus region in Russia’s parliament.
Over the past week, two Russians who have long focused on political developments and human rights violations in the North Caucasus have announced their intentions of running in the September 18 elections to the Russian State Duma from that region. The two are Svetlana Gannushkina, 74, who was reported to have been a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 and was a co-founder in 1990 of the NGO Civic Assistance, which she now heads; and journalist Maksim Shevchenko, 50, editor in chief of the website Kavpolit.com and a member of the presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights.
Russia’s Federal Migration Service has granted temporary asylum to a North Korean refugee who has been seeking this status since 2013. The foreigner has held his new status since May 26, having had his application rejected on three occasions previously.
Most countries that have signed the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees agree that absolutely all North Korean citizens have the right to be granted asylum elsewhere regardless of the circumstances surrounding their escape from the country. The North Korean government sees all people who have left the territory without authorization as criminals.
The number of Russians seeking asylum in Germany has risen dramatically. A German paper suspects a plot by the Russian president to create instability in Germany – something many observers dismiss as nonsense.
The story on the front page of Monday’s edition of “Die Welt” sounds threatening. It posits that a Kremlin power play is behind the strong rise recently in the number of asylum seekers from Russia, and Chechnya in particular.
Russia is rated the least welcoming country to refugees, according to a survey commissioned by Amnesty International and conducted by consulting firm GlobeScan.
The survey, published Thursday, created a Refugees Welcome Index that ranks countries on a scale from zero to 100, where zero means that all survey respondents would refuse refugees entry to their country and 100 means that all respondents would accept refugees into their neighborhood. Russia was given an index score of 18, the lowest.