Russia had world’s highest number of asylum applications in 2014 – UN

RIA Novosti / Aleksandr Pogotov
In 2014 Russia received the world’s largest number of applications from asylum seekers fleeing repression or war in their home countries, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in its annual report.

The report states that about 275,000 foreigners applied for political asylum in 2014, claiming that they suffer from wars or unfounded persecution at home. Seven thousand of these were applications for refugee status and almost 268,000 were requests for temporary asylum.

The same report notes that the surge in the number of asylum applications was extremely acute in 2014, the year of the Ukraine conflict. In previous years, it was never higher than 5,000.

The UN confirmed that the military conflict in Ukraine’s Donbass region was the main reason for the surge in asylum applications. Over 271,000 requests came from Ukrainian citizens, making 99 percent of the total number, the report reads. Another possible factor is that Russian authorities proved to be much more tolerant in their approach to Ukrainian applicants than their colleagues from Western countries. Russia and Belarus fulfilled 90 percent of the asylum requests and nations such as UK, France, Poland or Finland accepted no more than 10 percent of Ukrainian asylum seekers. The US, Canada and Germany proved to be more hospitable and fulfilled between 35 and 65 percent of requests, but these numbers are still far lower than the Russian figures, wrote the UN researchers.

The report also stated that in 2014 Ukraine surpassed the previous years’ leader, Syria, by the number of people who wanted to flee their homeland. About one-fifth of a total 1.47 million asylum requests was made by Ukrainians and 94 percent of these requests were made in Russia.

READ MORE: Ukrainian refugees to receive Russian pensions - minister

Russian sources estimate that the overall number of Ukrainian citizens who have fled to Russia from war in their country is about 1 million. It is difficult to get a precise figure, because Russia and Ukraine still have a visa-free regime between them and many people come and stay without registering as refugees. However, the current situation has prompted a group of Russian MPs to suggest seriously easing the procedure of getting Russian residence permits and citizenship for Ukrainians. The sponsors of the motion suggested that Russian passports should be automatically issued to Ukrainians who come to Russia and officially renounce their Ukrainian citizenship.

Russian government officials have already taken numerous steps aimed at easing the life of Ukrainian refugees in the country. In August 2014, the Federal Migration Service allowed Ukrainians to prolong their 90-day visa free stay for 180 days, adding that they wouldn’t be punished for minor violations of migration rules.

The head of the agency proposed a public discussion on a bill giving regional migration officials authority to grant temporary asylum to Ukrainians within three days instead of the current three months and to cancel the obligatory health test required for this.

However, some nationalist politicians warned against the influx of refugees and suggested some additional regulations. In particular, MP Roman Khudyakov, of the LDPR party, drafted a bill proposing a cut in benefit payments to refugees if they refuse to take jobs offered by Russian employment centers.