Asylum System in Russia Resembles an Empty Skyscraper

On October 15, the Civic Assistance Committee presented the report “Russia as a Country of Asylum” to colleagues and journalists. This report is based on the results of years of Committe work in assistance to refugees. It also contains data of a special monitoring of migration services work and of court hearings on refugees’ cases in Moscow and Moscow region.

In 1992, 23 years ago, Russia acceded to the 1951 Convention on  the status of refugees. And since that moment the system of asylum in Russia had started to take shape. The report “Russia as a Country of Asylum” seeks to evaluate the results of the development of this system and to compare them with the provisions of the above-mentioned 1951 Convention.

The report contains detailed description of all basic elements of Russian Federation asylum system. These include national legislation on refugees, procedures of asylum seeking, and decision making on asylum applications as well as the implemention of the refugees’ rights guaranteed by law.

The conclusions reached by the authors of the report are dissapointing. “The procedure of determining refugee status in Russia is not fair. There is a problem of non-admission to the procedure, people get unjustified refusals, appeals are ineffective; in most cases the court sides with Federal Migration Service. Those who acquire the  status may loose it at any moment without justifiable reasons. Thus people, including many real refugees, who are entitled to the status, become illegal migrants threatened with expulsion”, said Elena Burtina, one of the report’s authors.

Elena Burtina: “Sometimes it seems that the asylum system in Russia is a skyscraper, where people live only on its first floor, and at the entrance stands the armed guard. They don’t allow people in, if only sometimes, but only through the back door. Otherwise if superintendent is willing to let you in. Everything depends on the decision from the top. Like in the case of Ukranians; if they give the command, the doors can be opened. But only in this case”.

“The judiciary system is vitually destroyed. Judges will take the relevant decision if there is a kind of certain position on the top. When we appealed the refusal of asylum to Egyptian Copts, who came to Russians whom they considered their coreligionists and were exepecting their support, we managed to gain judge’s sympathy. Naturally, she refused our claim, but deemed necessary to say in justification that the decision for determining refugee status of asylum-seekers is not the kind of decision which one can claim in the court. While there is no command from the top she can not make the decision, which will not be in compliance with the public body, in this case — the Federal Migration Service”, added the Civic Assistance Commitee chairman and head of “Migration and Law” Network of Memorial Human Rights Center Svetlana Gannushkina.

Preparation of the report was carried out within the framework of the “Right to Asylum” Project at the expense of the presidential grant, provided by All-Russia Non-Governmental Movement “Civil Dignity”. The report was prepared by Elena Burtina together with Doctor of Juridical Science Vladislav Simonov. The section on refugees’ right to judicial protection was prepared by Ekaterina Korosteleva, who conducted the monitoring of court sessions as a part of this project.

Download the full report here.

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