Escape from Russia: What we can currently say

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From an anti-war protest in Russia in February 2022
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This article was first published by PRO ASYL in German on 23rd September 2022. An English version was published by Connection e.V.

Since Russia’s ruler Putin declared a partial mobilisation for the war against Ukraine, men and women who want to flee the country out of fear of military service and state repression have been contacting PRO ASYL by the minute. This is the information we can currently give to those affected.

You cannot apply for asylum from abroad. Only those who are already in Germany can apply for asylum.

Access to Germany

Russian citizens need a visa to enter Germany legally. The issuing of visas is handled very restrictively. There are Schengen visas and visas for long-term stays, such as for skilled workers (information here and here). However, since September 19 this year, Russia’s neighbours Estonia and Latvia as well as Lithuania and Poland no longer allow Russian citizens to enter the country on simple Schengen visas, which severely restricts land travel. There are currently no direct flight connections to Germany.

Germany has also granted humanitarian visas in some particularly high-profile cases of people who have made public appearances, such as critical journalists. For the majority of people, however, this will not be a fast solution at the moment. The German embassies and consulates generally reject such applications. Statements by politicians that Germany is willing to take in people who are against the war or do not want to fight and to give them asylum are currently failing mainly due to a lack of practical possibilities to enter the country!

Asylum in Germany

If a person applies for asylum in Germany, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) first checks whether Germany is responsible for this according to the European Regulation, which regulates the responsibility for examining a request for asylum. This so-called Dublin III Regulation applies in all EU countries and in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. As a rule, the state that issued the visa for entry is responsible for the asylum procedure. In the case of illegal entry, the state that the person entered first is responsible. If Germany does not deport an asylum seeking person within a certain period of time, the responsibility for examining the asylum application is transferred to Germany. You can find more information on Dublin procedures here.

If Germany has (become) responsible for the asylum procedure, the BAMF examines the grounds for asylum individually.

Persons who desert from active military service in Russia can, in our estimation, receive refugee recognition. This is also the assumption of the Federal Ministry of the Interior in the case of deserters. Those who flee from active military service should, if possible, prove this with appropriate documents and credibly explain why they cannot reconcile killing people in war with their conscience. It is still open whether the BAMF will demand that people first try to refuse military service. In Russia, however, there are only very limited possibilities to do so.

Jurisprudence in Germany on military conscientious objection is generally restrictive: it is seen as legitimate state action to oblige citizens to perform military service and also to punish them if they refuse. Only if this punishment is disproportionately high or if political persecution is triggered by the refusal (which can be assumed in Russia), is a conscientious objector recognised as a refugee. If the asylum seeker would have been obliged to participate in war crimes, crimes against peace or crimes against humanity during military service, he or she may be recognised as a refugee under certain circumstances.

For conscientious objectors who have not yet been conscripted, there are no comparable statements from the German government regarding protection in Germany. Even those who have only received a conscription order so far should present it in the asylum procedure to prove that conscription was imminent. Those who can prove that they belong to the group of those who are covered by the partial mobilisation should also submit corresponding evidence in the asylum procedure. We cannot yet foresee whether these persons will also be recognised in the asylum procedure. The political signs speak in favour of this. However, the practice of the BAMF so far has been different. The BAMF could therefore also refuse in these cases due to the points mentioned above.

There are reports that even beyond the official criteria of partial mobilisation, men of military age are being called up for military service. Whether they can also be granted protection status in the asylum procedure without a conscription order is not yet foreseeable. That will depend on whether the BAMF considers the danger to conscription likely enough.

Opposition members or persecuted journalists can also be granted protection status in Germany in the asylum procedure. The persecution claimed and the reasons for it must be made credible in the asylum procedure.

As soon as we can provide more detailed information on these questions, we will publish corresponding information on our homepage.

There are currently no deportations from Germany to Russia.

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