by PRO ASYL and Connection e.V.

Two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) continues to reject Russian refusers and obliges them to return to Russia. Connection e.V. and PRO ASYL are alarmed by the BAMF’s reasoning, which ignores the risk for Russian refusers of being recruited in a war that violates international law.

The rate of asylum recognition has even decreased, as figures from the Federal Ministry of the Interior show. “According to our findings, this primarily affects those conscripts who had already evaded the military’s grasp in good time before being recruited. Ultimately, this means that German authorities will hand over Russian conscientious objectors to the Russian military for recruitment into a war that violates international law,” says Rudi Friedrich, Director of the conscientious objection network Connection e.V.

EU tightens visa regulations

Connection e.V. last presented an analysis in September 2023, according to which at least 250,000 men liable for military service from Russia have left the country since the start of the war against Ukraine and are seeking protection in other countries. The majority have fled to neighbouring countries to the south, such as Kazakhstan or Georgia. Their situation there is often precarious because they often only have temporary residence status.

“The European Union has allowed visa regulations to be tightened even further for Russians liable for military service instead of supporting their decision not to take part in the war,” says Karl Kopp, Director of PRO ASYL. According to Eurostat, between February 2022 and the end of 2023, only around 9,000 men from Russia liable for military service were able to apply for asylum in an European Union country.

Recognitions of asylum applications have decreased

In September 2023, the Federal Ministry of the Interior presented detailed figures on male asylum applicants in Germany between the ages of 18 and 45 from Russia. For the first eight months of 2023, the Federal Ministry of the Interior concluded that out of 904 applications processed, only eleven were granted asylum, 33 were rejected and in more than 800 cases, those affected were referred to asylum procedures in other countries such as Poland, Croatia or Finland.

This means that the recognition rate actually fell from 2022 to 2023. While at least 40 per cent of the asylum applications examined in 2022 were still positive, the rate for January to September 2023 fell to just 25 per cent.

Connection e.V. and PRO ASYL are particularly alarmed by the reasons given by the BAMF for rejecting asylum applications from military service personnel. In a decision dated 29 September 2023, the office stated in the case of a reservist who had already received a call-up notice that “the refusal of partial mobilisation alone does not constitute an act of persecution”. It cannot be ruled out “that harsher punishments will be imposed on those who refuse to mobilise during the Ukraine war and in the further course of the war. However, according to the current legal situation, concrete enforcement is not very likely.”

Conscripted into a war contrary to international law

Apart from possible criminal prosecution, however, the decisive circumstance is not addressed at all: The applicant would almost certainly be drafted into the war against Ukraine, which violates international law, if he returned to Russia. Judgements by the administrative courts in Halle and Berlin show that this must very well lead to recognition.

The practice of the Federal Office shows that the announcements made by politicians in favour of recognising Russian refusers are not worth much. “Apparently, only deserters are recognised, as announced by the Federal Ministry of the Interior. However, the large number of draft evaders are being rejected. This is an intolerable situation,” says Rudi Friedrich, Director of Connection e.V.

Those who evade war deserve protection

PRO ASYL and Connection e.V. are calling on the German government to create opportunities to guarantee protection and asylum for conscientious objectors, draft evaders and deserters. This includes:

  • Russian citizens must also be able to submit applications for admission to the European Union from countries outside Russia where they are threatened with deportation to Russia. They should be given access to humanitarian visas.
  • No pushbacks! Reception of people seeking protection can only succeed if illegal pushbacks are stopped and people are given access to a fair asylum procedure. But the current visa regulations prevent many from reaching safe countries.
  • With a view to asylum or another residence status, EU countries must not only develop criteria for deserters, but above all find solutions for the larger number of those withdrawing from military service. If they were forced to return to Russia, they would be subject to recruitment for a war that violates international law.
  • The EU should adopt a reception programme so that those Russian citizens who have turned their backs on their country’s government at great risk are given opportunities for training and employment.

Further information can be found in the background article by Connection e.V. “Russinnen und Russen, die sich dem Krieg verweigern” and on the PRO ASYL website in an abridged version, which is published here.

PRO ASYL and Connection e.V. are part of the #ObjectWarCampaign, with which more than a hundred organisations across Europe are campaigning for the protection and asylum of conscientious objectors and deserters from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

The situation of deserters and conscientious objectors from Ukraine and Belarus we describe in detail elsewhere.

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