Russia: The crisis of Syrian refugees

Immigrants consider the Eurasian country as a transit space towards refugee status

Russia: The crisis of Syrian refugees

Since long before the start of the Syrian Civil War, which began in early 2011, the relationship between the Assad and Russia has been positive. After 7 years of conflict, Russia has remained loyal to the government of Bashar Al Asad both diplomatically and militarily.

The consequences of military involvement have been so successful that by November 2017, although the opposition was not considered totally destroyed, it was considered sufficiently demoralized.

However, Russian efforts seem to have focused solely on the success of their military and diplomatic campaign, since the actions that respect to the refugees have not been decisive.

A transit country

For 2015, the Syrians considered the European country as a passage place, due to the number of obstacles they faced for their reception. From the beginning of the conflict, 3,338 Syrians had requested asylum. However, only 1,774 had managed to receive the refugee status.

On the other hand, it is important to note that in Russia there is only one NGO that deals with the interests of refugees, called Civil Support.

At that time, the Russian government explained that according to internal surveys, the number of Syrians in Russia was higher. Nevertheless, many of them did not accede to the asylum request processes.

"The refugee arrives but does not receive an appointment at the institutions. Or they are arrested or deported", Svetlana Gannuschkina, president of Civil Support, said at the time. The fact that they hardly find any help for their condition, their children have problems to be schooled and not being able to get a job, are the reasons that Syrians consider it a country of transit, explains Gannuschkina.

An entry in the Schengen Area

By 2016, the situation had not changed a lot. Russia, despite being among the 10 countries that most refugees accepted that year, was still considered a way of passage.

The situation sparked a debate between Russia and Norway, when thousands of refugees made use of "the Arctic Route" to access the Schengen Area by Norway, from Russia.

Immigrants considered this route much safer than the traditional "Balkan corridor" through Turkey, the Greek islands, and the Balkan countries. The Schengen Area did not involve dangerous sea crossings in the hands of traffickers of people but, as the only exception, the last leg of the trip had to be made in children's bicycles, in order to mislead the Russian and Norwegian controls.

The Russian authorities prohibit crossing the border on foot, while the Norwegians, have limitations for those who cross it in vehicles.

Once Norway detected the growth in the traffic on its borders and in the number of people seeking asylum, it began deporting hundreds of people. For its part, Russia closed the border crossing claiming security reasons based on the bilateral treaties it has with Norway.

The Russian justification for refusing to reinstate the approximately 5,400 refugees and immigrants, who were granted with work permits and visas, was that many of them did not state their true intentions when they demanded Russian documentation.

“The talk is about people who arrived in Russia with a purpose of either to work in Russia or to visit relatives. They had not declared their (true) purpose of visit as transit to Norway”, said Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister. “This means that they had deliberately stated false data about the purpose of their visit to the Russian Federation. This is why we do not want to admit these people back to Russia”, Lavrov said.

New Horizons

By the end of 2017, the situation of refugees in Russia seemed to have better horizons.

The failure of the quota system, one of the European Union's migration policies that was expected to be implemented after the Brussels Summit, was evident with the delay of its application until June 2018.

However, during the annual press conference at the Moscow International Trade Center, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was ready to resolve the Syrian refugee crisis.

"We are ready to contribute to this. We can be part of an international effort", Putin said. This fact demonstrated the new approach of the Russian Federation to provide support to the Arab Republic, after the recognized victory of its intervention in the country.


LatinAmerican Post | Camila González C.
Copy edited by Marcela Peñaloza

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