By Paul Goble
The number of Russians seeking political asylum in Europe and the United States set a record in 2022, according to official sources, but fewer than 50 percent of those who applied have received that status, although in Europe, most countries are not returning draft-age Russians to their homeland lest they be sent to fight in Ukraine.
These figures have been reported by the To Be Exact portal and analyzed by Novaya Gazeta (tochno.st/materials/v-2022-godu-rekordnoe-kolichestvo-rossiyan-zaprosili-ubezhishche-v-ssha-i-nekotorykh-stranakh-evropy-no-veroyatnost-polozhitelnogo-resheniya-menshe-50-a-zhdat-ego-mozhno-godami and novayagazeta.eu/articles/2023/07/24/iz-rossii-melkimi-perebezhkami).
The figures for 2022 represent a rise of more than 300 percent from the year before. In the case of the US, more Russians applied for asylum last year than did in the eight previous years combined. But in the case of Europe, while the numbers increased, the figure was not dramatically higher than in 2021.
According to specialists on emigration, the numbers in Europe did not grow because the EU tightened rules governing asylum, several countries stopped giving asylum to those Russians seeking it for humanitarian reasons, and several others saw the policies of their government change in the direction of opposition to immigration as such.
While 2022 in the US was the peak of Russian asylum applications, that date came in Europe ten years ago and consisted almost exclusively of Chechens who sought asylum in Germany. Some European countries continued to approve a majority of applications but many did not. And in six cases, none of the applications were approved last year.
One positive development since the start of Putin’s war in Ukraine is that European countries, even when they do not give asylum to Russian applicants are not sending back to that country men between the ages of 18 and 45 lest they be drafted and sent to fight in Ukraine.
The chances for Russians’ receiving approval of asylum applications are higher in the US than in Europe, 88 percent of applicants received that status last year, up slightly from 86 percent the year before. But these figures must be treated with caution because the application process is so long that many gaining asylum now in fact applied years earlier.