A scathing report from a Russian human rights organization says the government has blocked nearly every Syrian refugee’s request for asylum and has even gone so far as to declare the civil-war torn Middle East country “safe,” the Moscow Times reported Wednesday.
Civil Assistance, a nonprofit charity that helps refugees and “forced migrants” navigate Russian immigration and with legal fees, said in a study titled “Syrian Refugees in Russia” that from 2011 to 2015, 2,011 Syrians asked for permanent asylum in Russia and only one request was granted.
Syrians have had better luck requesting temporary asylum, with 3,306 out of 4,442 requests granted, but the status only lasts a year and there is no opportunity for renewal. As of April, 7,096 Syrians were in Russia, a number that includes diplomats and Syrians who fled before the bloody civil war broke out.
The refugee crisis, which has included horrific stories of families attempting to escape Syria by any means necessary, has seen an estimated 11 million people flee across the Middle East and Europe, with the majority (6.6 million) heading to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, and 1 million to European Union nations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown military and public support from Syria President Bashar Assad by providing troops and especially in the form of airstrikes that have killed thousands. While the Syrian army is responsible for more than 188,000 civilian deaths, Russian forces have reportedly killed over 3,500 since entering the war in 2013, the Syrian Network for Human Rights reported.
The high casualties and military presence in Syria have led critics to claim Russia has no idea how to handle the refugee crisis.
"Russia claims it has made an enormous contribution to the fight against terrorism, but their actions make it clear that the refugee problem should be dealt with by others," said Tanya Lokshina, director of Human Rights Watch’s Russian arm.