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Refuge and asylum | Russian Federation |

Russian Federation Background Trends Migration policy Integration policy Irregular migration Refuge and asylum Citizenship Future Challenges References

Refuge and asylum

Maria Nozhenko

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The first major influx of refugees into modern Russia took place in the period 1988 to 1989 as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenians and Azerbaijanians. Other ethnic conflicts (e.g. the Abkhazian conflict 1992-1993, the Ossetin-Ingush conflict 1992, the Chechnya conflict 1994-1996), which took place in the post-Soviet area, increased the number of refugees.

In Russia there are also a number of refugees and asylum-seekers from Afghanistan and some African countries like Somalia, Ethiopia and Angola.

In 1993 Russia signed the UN 1951 Convention on Refugees. As a result, Russia granted asylum to migrants from war-torn African and Asian countries. Many of them later attempted to move on to EU countries. In the same year the laws On Refugees and On Forced Migrants were adopted. These documents drew a line not only between internal "forced migrants" and international refugees, but also between "potential Russian citizens" and foreigners. The Russian definition of "forced migrant" is quite unusual in an international context, as it refers only to citizens of the Russian Federation or former citizens of the USSR who apply for Russian citizenship. "Forced migrants" in Russia are persons who, firstly, have Russian citizenship or apply for it, and, secondly, who left their residence because of an emergency situation (like an armed conflict). It is important to mention that in the 1990s the impossibility of naturalization in the FSU countries was considered, in Russia, to be an emergency situation. The status of "forced migrant" was to the Russian-speaking population of the FSU countries who had not acquired citizenship from one of the newly established states (for example from Latvia which did not grant citizenship to immigrants of non-Latvian descent who came after 1940), and therefore moved to Russia. In practice, because of this recognition the number of forced migrants was very high in the first half of the 1990s and vastly decreased in the 2000s.

The armed conflicts in Russia (especially the Ossetin-Ingush conflict in 1992 and the two wars in Chechnya) led to even

Numbers of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in the Russian Federation (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

higher numbers and directed the attention of politicians, the public and academics at this group of migrants. The issue of international refugees and asylum-seekers from other regions has received relatively little attention, due to their small numbers (see Figure).

The policy on refuge and asylum has been under-developed; the Russian authorities have granted asylum and the status of refugees only unwillingly. In 1996, for example, 4.840 persons applied for asylum, but only 78 persons were granted 1951 Convention status. The situation has changed gradually over the last several years. According to the FMS, refugee status was granted to 802 people from 2004 till 1 May 2009, and 4.195 people were granted asylum in the same period (see Figure). It may well be that the policy on refuge and asylum will improve in the near future, because the Russian Government wants to adopt a new refugee law and is drafting it with the help of the UN Refugee Agency.

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