Showing posts with label Asylum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Asylum. Show all posts

November 9, 2015

Increased Number of Russians Seeking Asylum in the US

The number of new U.S. asylum applications by Russians has reached its highest level in more than two decades, a surge that immigration lawyers link to the Kremlin's tightening grip on politics, pervasive corruption, and discrimination and violence against sexual minorities.

Russian nationals filed 1,454 new asylum applications in the 2015 fiscal year ending September 30, up 50 percent from the previous year and more than double the number filed in 2012, when President Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin after a four-year stint as prime minister, according to U.S. Department of Homeland Security data obtained by RFE/RL under the Freedom Of Information Act.

It is the third consecutive year that the number of U.S. asylum applications filed by Russian citizens has risen since Putin took office for a third presidential term. A single asylum application can include more than one individual, such as the spouse or children of the applicant.

The data obtained by RFE/RL does not specify the motivations of the applicants for seeking asylum. U.S. immigration lawyers have said the steady rise is likely driven in part by an exodus of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Russians after Putin signed a controversial 2013 law banning the spread among minors of "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations."

Western governments have denounced the law as discriminatory, and rights groups say it has helped foster an atmosphere of impunity for those who commit acts of violence against gay people. Putin insists the law does not infringe on LGBT rights and is merely aimed at protecting children.

Anecdotal evidence from lawyers who work with Russian asylum seekers suggests that the sharp spike in new applications this year may also be tied to an increasing number of Russians claiming to be victims of political persecution and threats or harassment by corrupt officials.

New York-based immigration attorney Alena Shautsova tells RFE/RL that she has fielded an increasing number of inquiries this year from Russians due to their opposition to Putin's policies and actions, including the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last year.

"They reach out to me and they say, ‘Well, we can't live there anymore. How can we immigrate?'" Shautsova says, adding that her clients include both LGBT Russians and those purportedly persecuted for their political views.

Since returning to the presidency, Putin has embarked on a range of domestic policies that have further consolidated the Kremlin's control of Russia's political landscape. He has sharpened the state-owned media's messaging to more closely mirror the Kremlin line and cracked down on foreign funding for nongovernmental organizations, many of which are critical of his policies.

Opposition activists — including prominent anticorruption crusader Aleksei Navalny -- have also been targeted in criminal cases widely seen as politically motivated.

Ismail Shahtakhtinski, a Virginia-based lawyer who works with asylum seekers primarily from Russia and Azerbaijan, says that over the past year he has been contacted by an increasing number of Russians who claim to have been pressured by the authorities to pay bribes, make false confessions, or give fabricated testimony.

"A lot of times the government is trying to build up a case against someone, and in the way of doing that, they try to gather witnesses," Shahtakhtinski says. "They use a lot of fake witnesses and court testimonies. Those are the types of cases that I see a substantial increase [in]."

'Basic Fear'

Immigration Equality, the largest legal advocacy group in the United States devoted to assisting LGBT individuals with immigration matters, says the number of Russians it has met with about potential asylum applications this year is roughly at the same level as in 2014.

The New York-based organization has met in person with 44 Russian nationals so far this year "to determine whether or not they should file for asylum," compared to 47 in 2014, its legal director, Aaron Morris, says.

"There will probably be a slight rise since we have two more months left in 2015, but I don't anticipate hugely bigger numbers," Morris says. "We're also currently representing 52 Russians in LGBT asylum claims, which is, as a raw number, more than last year. I don't know that that reflects the increase, because of the long delays in the system."

Morris says that among the individuals Immigration Equality has met and worked with over the past year, the organization is seeing more instances of LGBT couples from Russia who have married in the United States and are interested in applying for asylum. Fear of physical violence remains the chief factor motivating sexual minorities to flee Russia and seek asylum in the United States, he adds.

"The basic fear for a lot of our clients is the same: It's that there's going to be a skinhead group that attacks them because they look gay or they're known to be gay or they're coming out of a gay club, or gay bar, or somewhere where LGBT people frequently meet," Morris says.

Russian citizens have filed more than 17,000 U.S. asylum applications since 1994, more than 6,000 of which have been approved, according to data provided by the Department of Homeland Security.

The number of new U.S. asylum applications by Russians this year was the largest in a single year since 1994, when the U.S. government received 2,127 applications from Russian nationals in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The United States receives far fewer asylum applications from Russian nationals than the European Union. Russians filed just over 14,000 first-time applications to EU countries last year, though that number was down from more than 35,000 the previous year, according to Eurostat data.

Between 2008 and 2014, however, the United States outranked all EU countries in popularity among Russian asylum-seekers except Germany, France, Poland, and Sweden, according to available Eurostat data.

Carl Schreck
Radio Free Europe

November 3, 2013

A Court Ruled A Gay Iranian Man Can Have His Asylum App. Reconsidered

The man charges if he returns to Iran he will be persecuted because of his sexuality
 The Four Courts in Dublin, home to the Supreme Court and High Court
A High Court judge has ruled that a 36-year-old gay Iranian man can have his application for asylum reconsidered.
The man, who arrived in Ireland in 2007, claims he was raped by the son of an Iranian state police colonel.
As reported by the Irish Independent the man alleges the colonel appeared during the rape and took a photo. This picture was then showed to the victim's mother.
The colonel's son and unidentified man were neighbors. He was invited to the son's apartment to watch gay pornography. The attack started and the man relented when told the colonel would be told it was him who provided the pornography.
After escaping the country, the man arrived in Ireland. He applied for asylum but was denied at first stage and appeal. When he took his case to the High Court, it was decided the Refugee Appeals Tribunal should hear the case.
The tribunal turned down the application. The applicant's lawyers asked the High Court to block this decision.
Justice Colm Mac Eochaidh agreed with the lawyers and the case was sent back to the tribunal.
The judge questioned the tribunal's findings the man was not gay.
According to the Irish Independent the judge wrote ‘the tribunal's findings that the alleged pictures cast doubt on his claim to be gay was irrational and illegal.'

July 11, 2013

Gay Yemeni Seeking Asylum

Ala’a Jarban blogged about gay rights and the revolution

A gay Yemeni activist known for blogging about the 2011 Yemen revolution is seeking asylum in Canada. 
Ala’a Jarban recently came out in an online post while at a human rights conference in Montreal. While many applauded Jarban’s bravery, others have condemned him, TechPresident reports. 
Homosexuality is illegal in Yemen, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission notes there are “rampant infringements on privacy and civil liberties” in the country. 
While Jarban is known for blogging about Yemen’s political revolution, he also created a blog where gay Yemenis could write about their lives. 
Xtra recently explored the many problems gay refugees like Jarban face getting to, and finding asylum in, Canada. Our government insists it’s leading the way in helping persecuted queer people, but local activists disagree.

Also, check out Xtra's interview with Canadian writer Kamal Al-Solaylee. His book Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes details his life as a gay man growing up in Yemen.



November 14, 2011

The former head of Uganda's female rugby team - who is a lesbian - has been granted asylum in Germany.

Peter Lloyd

The former head of Uganda's female rugby team - who is a lesbian - has been granted asylum in Germany.
The move comes after she faced harrassment from sports officials in her homeland after her sexuality became public knowledge.
Lilian Ikulmet, who captained the She Cranes team, told DW News that she had been raped, beaten and discriminated against by men for her sexuality.
According to website Behind The Mask, Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper reported that: “The rugger chick who carries a scar on the face and wears short, spiky dreadlocks explained that it was inevitable to quit Uganda saying, ‘the men told me: Until you stop being a lesbian, we will continue to do this to you.’
"The former Daily Monitor sports reporter frequented Europe at the height of her career until she stopped writing for unknown reasons.”
Ikulmet told DW news that she wants to find a job and apply for a visa for her girlfriend, whom she hopes to marry.

Featured Posts

Human Rights Campaign Testifies Against Judge Neil Gorsuch

LGBTQ groups have come out in strong opposition to the nomination of Neil Gorsuch as U.S. Supreme Court Justice, ar...