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UNHCR calls on Moscow to process non-CIS asylum-seekers

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UNHCR calls on Moscow to process non-CIS asylum-seekers

9 October 1997

UNHCR today urged the Moscow authorities to expedite the asylum procedure for some 15,000 asylum-seekers from outside the Commonwealth of Independent States and to prevent them from being harassed as illegal residents.

Despite considerable efforts made by the Russian Federal Migration Service to implement an asylum procedure in some parts of Russia, authorities in Moscow have been slow in accepting asylum-applications, particularly from non-CIS citizens.

The frustration of asylum-seekers flared into spontaneous violence on Monday, when some 50 asylum-seekers from Angola and former Zaire stormed into a refugee reception centre and demolished the premises.

"We had been fearing that such an incident might happen," said John Horekens, UNHCR's Director for Europe.

"For years, these people have been living with no prospect of a better future, in conditions of great hardship, with no security or rights. They are feeling increasingly hopeless and, in the face of growing xenophobia, are turning desperate."

Monday's incident occured when representatives of asylum-seekers visited the reception centre to request funeral fees for a Zairean asylum-seeker who was allegedly killed last Friday by two unidentified Russians in Mytishi (20 km north of Moscow).

What began as a quiet protest against their ill-treatment in Moscow broke out into an uncontrollable riot. Much of the furniture in the building was destroyed, but some ten UNHCR and Equilibre (French NGO) staff members present at the centre were unharmed.

UNHCR is alarmed by this act of violence by asylum-seekers, a first such incident in Moscow. UNHCR Office in Moscow informed the FMS about the incident and will request the authorities to look into the alleged killing of the Zairean asylum-seeker.

Some 1,400 Angolans and former Zaireans are registered in Moscow, together with 30,400 others from non-CIS countries. UNHCR provides limited cash allowances, medical, school and social services to 277 Angolans and former Zairean asylum-seekers in Moscow area.

The Russian Federation ratified the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol on 2 February 1993. It has adopted a revised law on refugees on 3 July 1997.