INFORMATION REGARDING THE TREATMENT OF ASYLUM APPLICATIONS FROM CHECHENS IN SELECTED EUROPEAN COUNTRIES.
The following documents are available upon request from Katy Fletcher, ECRE Information Officer, email@example.com
Special thanks to Bettina Scholdan and her colleagues of ACCORD (Austrian Centre for Country Information and Asylum Research and Documentation), www.oefse.at/accord, for providing us with the following documents.
A report by Eliza Mussayeva, Memorial Centre, held at the UNHCR/ACCORD Seminar on Country of Origin in November 2000, will be published in January 2001 (see ACCORD website or get in touch with ACCORD)
The following UNHCR documents are also available upon request from Katy Fletcher.
(Info as of November 2000)
General information on Russian Federation and Chechnya
For first-hand info directly at the Comité Tchétchénie: firstname.lastname@example.org
Articles etc onwww.tol.cz (Transition Online)
Country Information and Refugee Report on Russian Federation, U.S. Committee for Refugees: http://www.refugees.org/world/countryindex/russian_federation.htm
Institute for War & Peace Reporting: http://www.iwpr.net/index.pl5?home_index.html
Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l Homme: Tchétchénie: Crimes contre lhumanite, rapport dune mission internationale denquête, February 2000: http://www.fidh.org/
Homepage of the US State Department: 1999 Country Report on Human Rights Practices: http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1999_hrp_report/russia.html
Ländermaterialien/Russische Föderation: with a lot of newspaper articles and NGO reports on Chechnya: www.asyl.net
The Observer International, John Sweeney reports on the horror of a Russian prison camp in Chechnya, Sunday October 15, 2000, Special report: Russia; Special report: crisis in Chechnya
For Russians, Chechnya Is Out of Control, By Daniel Williams, Washington Post Foreign Service, Thursday , September 21, 2000 ; A01
Amnesty International, "Raid on the Glasnost Foundation by special police", September 2000, EUR 46/40/00; 2 S., L8627
Human Rights Watch:
Confessions at any Cost: Police Torture in Russia, November 1999: www.hrw.org/reports/2000/russia_chechnya/
Home Office - Country Assessment Russia: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/ind/
Human Rights Watch: "Civilian Killings in Staropromyslovski, District of Grozny". February 2000, Vol. 12. No. 2 (D): www.hrw.org/ reports/2000/russia_chchnya/
Danish Refugee Council and ASF/Danish Peoples Aid: Ingushetia Report No. 11: L5805
Information On Chechen Asylum Seekers In Selected Countries
Between September 1999 and October 2000, 20 families (50 persons) applied to the Refugee Counselling Service (RCS) in Minsk and Vitebsk. During the analysed period no applications for refugee status in the Republic of Belarus submitted by asylum seekers from Chechnya were registered with the territorial migration bodies. The asylum seekers have no access to the status determination procedure in Belarus. Most of the people are refugees from second conflict in Chechnya. The majority are ethnic Chechens, but there are also some Kumyks. The officials in the Migration Service (MS) refer to the bilateral agreement with the Russian Federation, which give them ground to receive a residence permit. The asylum seekers from Chechnya were told that, being citizens of the Russian Federation, they were entitled to a residence permit in the Republic of Belarus if they find proper shelter and a job concluded by a legal labour contract with some Belarusian enterprise. In practice, however, the asylum seeker cannot get a residence permit, as they have no money to rent any accommodation and in most cases they cannot find any job. It was also mentioned informally that ongoing armed conflicts in Chechnya are internal affairs of Russia, therefore the MS cannot interfere.
4 families (17 persons) were deported back to Ingushetia, Russia, as they did not find any protection in Belarus.
(Source: Inna Borisevich, Refugee Counselling Service (RCS) in Minsk)
The number of Chechens applying for asylum in Denmark is very limited. At first instance, the Immigration Service has no practice of granting refugee status to Chechen applicants. From January to June 2000, 143 Russians (all origins, there are no distinction at that stage) applied for asylum in Denmark and out of these, only 2 were granted refugee statuses. We do not know whether or not these two statuses were granted to Chechen applicants, but in any case, the practice seems to be highly restrictive.
Before the Refugee Appeal Board, it is possible to distinguish Chechen applicants from other Russians. Since the second Chechen war broke out, the Refugee Appeal Board has rendered only 5 decisions regarding Chechens, all negative.
No established legal practice seems to emerge from this limited case law. In fact, in most cases (like three decisions made in September), the claim was dismissed on the grounds that the applicant was in fact not a Chechen. In the 5 decisions rendered so far, the issues of individual persecution or internal flight alternative were not even addressed.
(Source: Fabrice Liebaut, Danish Refugee Council)
Since 1997 no individual from Chechnya has applied for refugee status in the Republic of Estonia. There was only one person from a Republic of the former Soviet Union (Armenia) who submitted an asylum application. The decision on his case was negative. In an unofficial explanation note the government, which issued the decision, stressed the idea that if refugee status were granted, this would give rise to an undesirable influx of migrants from CIS countries. Up to the present the authorities are interested to avoid establishing such a precedent, particularly with respect to refugees from Chechnya.
In light of the attitudes towards refugees from former Soviet Republics mentioned above, it is possible to predict that asylum seekers from Chechnya will face negative decisions in the accelerated procedure. Most likely, they will be rejected either on grounds of internal relocation (if they are Russian citizens), or on grounds of "safe third country".
(Source: Andrei Arjupin, Legal Aid Department, Estonia)
FRANCE (thanks to Gilles Piquois for providing the decisions)
The Commission des Recours des Refugies (CRR) (Refugee Appeal Board) decided on 4 October 2000 (appeal no. 354865 and 354864) in favour of an asylum applicant of Chechen origin. The appellant was a victim of the Chechen war. He fled and relocated to Ingushetia where he was assaulted on several occasions by elements of the native population because of his Chechen origin. He returned to Stavropol to meet with his brother, and was interrogated and beaten by frontier guards upon his return because of his ethnic appearance alone. He submitted that he feared persecution in Ingushetia without being able to avail himself of the protection of the Russian authorities.
The CRR found that the appellant had relocated to Ingushetia in 1996 and had been subjected to assaults by the native population of Ingushetia since 1998 because of his Chechen origin. The CRR found that he was assaulted and injured following an incident between Chechen and Ingushetian frontier guards in 1999. The CRR also found that he was exposed after each incident at the border to machinations that have to be considered as voluntarily tolerated by the Russian authorities who, aware of the situation of Chechen refugees in Ingushetia, did not take any appropriate measure to ensure the protection of these refugees. It went on to hold that after his return to Stavropol, he had been interrogated and beaten by the frontier guards upon his return, and that on account of his origin, he was not able to relocate in another region of the Russian Federation. The CRR held that under these circumstances, the appellant would be recognised as a refugee.
The Commission des Recours des Refugies (CRR) (Refugee Appeal Board) decided on 4 October 2000 (appeal no. 350990) in favour of an asylum applicant of Chechen origin. The appellant fled to Dagestan with his mother after the death of his father and after having lost his property due to the bombardment of the Russian army. He joined his mother in France after having been the victim of several attempts of abduction in Dagestan. He claimed to fear for his security upon return to his country. The CRR held that the appellant was a minor when he entered France with his mother whose status as a refugee had been recognised. It held that on the basis of family union the appellant was to be considered a refugee.
The Commission des Recours des Refugies (CRR) (Refugee Appeal Board) decided on 4 October 2000 (appeal no. 350989) in favour of an asylum applicant of Chechen origin. The CRR found that the appellant had lost her property and her house in Novogrosny after a bombardment in 1994, and that her husband is deceased due to injuries following the bombardment. The CRR found that she subsequently fled to Dagestan with her son. The CRR found that a particularly detailed medical certificate confirmed the submission of the appellant in a closed hearing that she had been subject to brutality of extreme gravity in a Chechen refugee camp by members of the Russian army. The CRR subsequently recognised refugee status.
German administration and courts currently do not decide, but will assume an internal flight alternative later. They postpone their decision in order to reduce public protest.
It cannot assume that all Chechens are really in danger. Only those who are suspected to have cooperated with the rebels are in danger of torture or political persecution. Others might face social discrimination and problems when settling down somewhere in the Russian Federation. However, Chechens are easily suspected of cooperation with rebels in Chechnya and neighbouring republics.
(Source: Manfred Kohler, Informationsverbund Asyl / ZDWF e.V. (www.asyl.net))
In Lithuania there are tens of Chechens who applied for recognition of refugee status. The Lithuanian Ministry of Interior has declined all applications so far.
The Ministry of Interior has usually argued that the applicant fled a general war-like situation and s/he did not experience any individualized persecution from the Russian side (that s/he was not detained, tortured or the like). The second argument is that s/he had an internal relocation alternative in Russia. Now many of these cases are appealed to the Lithuanian courts.
(Source: Marius Urbelis, Lithuanian Red Cross)
There is no national procedure on refugee status determination in Moldova. The draft refugee law is currently in Parliament. Upon adoption of this law, which is expected later this year, the national procedure should start. In the absence of a national procedure, UNHCR in Moldova conducts refugee status determination procedure under its mandate. As of 10 October 2000, 39 cases from Chechnya (81 individuals) are registered with our office.
(Source: Yoko Akasaka, UNHCR Moldavia)
20 Chechens have been granted refugee status by the first instance decision-body in Poland (unknown from which war they fled).
(Source: Marius Urbelis, Lithuanian Red Cross)
On 16 February 1995, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine introduced a Decree "On the measures concerning support of persons, who were forced to leave their places of permanent residence in the Autonomous Republic of Chechen Republic of Russian Federation, and arrived in Ukraine". According to that Decree, 2,924 persons (including 828 children) from Chechnya have applied for protection to Regional Migration Services of Ukraine. Out of them 1,883 were issued three-months certificates (subject to extension) that provided them with the possibility to stay legally in Ukraine and to have a right to work and to medical aid, while their children were granted access to schools and kindergartens.
That Decree was revoked in May 1997. Several hundreds individuals, almost all of them ethnic Chechens repatriated voluntarily and in very few cases UNHCR offered some material assistance. While some regional migration services continued to prolong the old war refugee certificates despite the revocation of the decree (as they did not see any other practical solution), in other regions solutions were found through granting of propiska or - in case of persons who (whose parents or grandparents) were born or lived in Ukraine by granting them Ukrainian citizenship. A propiska is a residence permit which is required for Ukrainian citizens to live legally in a certain place; according to this information it seems to be granted instead of giving refugee status, even though it does not give the same guarantees and, for example, is no guarantee against deportation. In line with UNHCR's recommendation some persons were admitted into the regular procedure for granting refugee status.
From September 1999 to January 2000, approximately 173 individuals (accompanied by 103 children) from Chechnya have applied for refugee status in Ukraine. 22 persons were recognised and 22 were rejected. (However, those figures require further clarification).
From 1 January to 1 September 2000, 249 persons (accompanied by 133 children) from Chechen Republic of Russian Federation applied for refugee status to Regional Migration Services. 182 applications were considered. 64 persons were granted refugee status (accompanied by 38 children). At the same time 144 persons (accompanied by 77 children) were not granted refugee status. The biggest number of recognised persons from Chechnya is present in the following regions of Ukraine: Kyiv - 18 persons, Kirovograd - 14 persons, Lviv- 6 persons, Autonomous Republic of Crimea - 6 persons.
The UNHCR Branch Office (BO) Kiev has no precise information on their ethnic background. However, according to State Department for Nationalities and Minorities (SDNM) information, ethnic Chechens are prevailing.
In 1999-2000, the State Department for Nationalities and Migration and its Regional Migration Services were using mainly Ukrainian and Russian reports from mass media in order to evaluate asylum claims. In this regard it was interesting to note that in general, attitude towards Chechen asylum seekers changed for the better when Ukrainian TV reported widespread violations of human rights by Russian troops and the opening of "concentration centres".
UNHCR BO Kiev has no precise information on figures of Chechens being returned from Ukraine. However, BO Kiev knows that the Ukrainian law-enforcement bodies are very reluctant to register Chechens who have no relatives in Ukraine. Those Chechens that have not been recognised as refugees and have no other legal grounds to stay in the country may be subject to deportation according to the Law of Ukraine On Legal Status of Foreigners.
UNHCR BO Kiev is also aware of pressure that has been provided by the Office of Visa Inspection and Registration (OVIR) of the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) on Regional Migration Services with regard to treatment of Chechens. The OVIR deals with internal matters of granting propiska, checking visas and generally making sure no-one is living in Ukraine illegally. Therefore the position of the Appeal Commission of SDNM, which overturned 36 first instance negative decisions on the Chechen caseload in February and March 2000, can be commended.
According to Border Guard statistics in 1999, 3, 333 persons were not permitted to cross the Ukrainian/Russian border due to the lack or invalidity of their documents. Out of them, 1,108 were citizens of the Russian Federation. UNHCR BO Kiev can only guess how many of them were Chechens.
However, UNHCR BO Kiev is aware of cases of Chechens who have travelled to Russia and have also returned to Ukraine.
(Source: PFM Natta, Snr. Protection Officer, UNHCR BO Kiev)