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Moscow murder: UNHCR deplores yet another racially-motivated attack

Briefing notes

Moscow murder: UNHCR deplores yet another racially-motivated attack

2 April 2004

UNHCR deeply regrets the news that an Afghan asylum seeker has been viciously murdered in Moscow, in what appears to have been a racially-motivated attack. On 25 March, the 28-year-old asylum seeker, Mr. Abdul Wase Abdul Karim, was beaten up in the vicinity of Chertanovskaya metro station, in south Moscow, allegedly by a group of skinheads wielding metal bars. He was taken to a nearby hospital and died six days later - on Wednesday - without regaining consciousness. Russian authorities have launched a criminal investigation into his murder.

Mr. Karim was a UNHCR-registered asylum seeker in the Russian Federation. He arrived in the country in May 1998, fleeing from the Taliban regime. A member of the Afghan Tajik minority, he was born and lived in Herat - which was captured by the Taliban in 1995 and firmly controlled by them until the end of 2001. Mr. Karim was registered with UNHCR in May 2000. The same month he received a "pre-registration" number with the Moscow Migration Service. However, he had not formally entered the national refugee status determination (RSD) procedure at the time of his death.

According to local media, he had married a Russian woman, and the couple had a three-month old daughter.

An Angolan asylum seeker, Massa Mayoni, was killed in September 2001 by a similar attack. An Ethiopian asylum seeker registered with UNHCR was injured in another apparently racially motivated attack last August. Less serious assaults on asylum seekers unfortunately occur all too frequently.

A total of 5,790 asylum seekers are registered with UNHCR in Moscow, including 4,839 from Afghanistan. (According to unofficial estimates, up to 100,000 Afghans are living in a refugee-like situation in the Russian Federation). Out of the total number of asylum seekers registered with UNHCR, around two-thirds are awaiting access to the status determination procedure and remain undocumented during the two-year waiting period, before they can formally gain access to the procedure. During this waiting period, they cannot work legally, and they are subject to fines and threats of deportation. UNHCR is working with the authorities to try and speed up this process.

As of 31 December 2003, there were 8,725 recognized refugees in the Russian Federation, including 362 people from non-CIS countries, of whom 346 are Afghans. In addition, 1,232 people - mostly Afghans - have been granted temporary asylum.

In a separate development in the Russian Federation, another camp for displaced Chechens in Ingushetia was officially closed yesterday (1 April). Sputnik camp shut down without incident. The majority of the remaining IDPs in Sputnik returned voluntarily to Chechnya. Those who did not wish to return were offered alternative accommodation in Ingushetia, in line with agreements on camp closures. Only one camp - Satsita - now remains in Ingushetia. A total of around 60,000 Chechens are still in Ingushetia, down from around 200,000 at the peak in 1999. Of these, over 33,000 are living in private accommodation and more than 24,000 are in temporary settlements.