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08 december, 2014

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Civic Chamber held Сzero readingТ of the draft law УOn asylum in the Russian FederationФ

Civic Chamber held Сzero readingТ of the draft law УOn asylum in the Russian FederationФ

At the ‘zero reading’ held in the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation on December 2 civic activists and experts have voiced their approval of the draft law “On asylum in the Russian Federation”. At the same time, they’ve singled out a number of issues to be fixed.

The document developed by the Federal Migration Service of Russia is set to introduce a new legal status for foreigners temporarily displaced to the Russian Federation called “temporary protection”, which grants the right of sanctuary in Russia to people forced to move to Russia as part of a group by emergency. Granting of temporary protection is intended to be based on the principle of affiliation with certain groups (just as these days asylum is given to citizens of Ukraine). Apart from this, the draft law has introduced a number of other novel legal terms, namely “a third safe country” and “members of the families of asylum-seekers, refugees or asylees”, and simplified a number of procedures required to obtain this or that status.

State Secretary, First Deputy Head of the Federal Migration Service of Russia Ekaterina Egorova explained that necessity to modernize the legislation stems from an increasing massive inflow of foreign citizens forced to migrate because of a changing nature of conflicts the world over and loopholes in the law, which has made the government to keep on issuing various legislative acts in order to cope with a massive inflow of refugees. Indeed, Ms. Egorova said that since the outbreak of the conflict in their country more than 245 thousands of Ukrainians applied for asylum in Russia, with over 220 applications been approved. Last year, most applications were submitted by citizens of Syria.

Syrians accounted for 62% of applicants, according to Valentina Kazakova, head of the Citizenship Office of the Federal Migration Service of Russia. “We tried to make sure that the draft law covers all key aspects of international protection of people who for various reasons were forced to seek sanctuary in Russia”, Kazakova added.

The official briefed the participants of the meeting about the novels of the draft law put up for discussion. Although criteria allowing a person to get a refugee status have not changed, a new term, “asylum-seeker”, was added into the legislation. In addition, the bill has specified concrete legal basis for getting an asylum status, Kazakova remarked.

In contrast to the Federal law “On refugees” currently in force, the draft law combines two status determination procedures: refugee status recognition and asylum process. Under the provisions of the draft law, a claimant will have to file no more than one application for refugee status, which will be used by authorities to decide whether to recognize him/her as a refugee or grant him asylum. Or deny him/her either. A stage of preliminary consideration of an application has been crossed out of the process. Combining of two status determination procedures is aimed to reduce the overall time taken by application processing.

The bill will additionally allow determining a legal status of asylum-seekers two times faster. While under the current law this procedure would take from 90 to 365 days, the proposed draft law would trim this span down to 15-195 days. As mentioned by the representatives of the Federal Migration Service, such a measure would shorten the period foreigners with ambiguous legal status could stay in Russia.

The draft law has reinforced fundamental conventional principles of protection of asylum-seekers, such as privacy of information about them, guarantee of their “non-refoulement” (this provision is missing in the current legislation); it, for the first time, has given a definition to “family reunification” and so on.

At the same time, social activists and experts voiced some concerns over the draft law.

Sergey Burlik, head of Migration and Citizenship Department of the Administration for Protection of Certain Social Groups at the Executive Office of the Russian Federation Commissioner for Human Rights, argued that the law should contain comprehensive information on the rights of an asylum-seeker or an asylee.

Tatyana Bershachevskaya, assistant to the legal adviser at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the Russian Federation, proposed to make up a detailed list of measures on protection of children, provision of refugees and asylum-seekers with access to health care services on a par with the citizens of the Russian Federation and guarantees of appropriate treatment.

“Enhancement of refugees legislation is an urgent matter, and all participants of the hearing have confirmed that the bill should be approved and implemented as soon as possible”, concluded Vladimir Shaposhnikov, Vice Chairman of the Commission on Development of Public Diplomacy and Support of Russian Nationals Abroad, who presided over the hearing. He noted that all recommendations put forward at the meeting will be summed up by the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation into an expert opinion on the draft law discussed.

RF Civic Chamber MediaЦOffice

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