Operation: Russian Federation
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|2020 year-end results|
|4,608||people of concern received legal assistance|
|1,169||people of concern received material assistance|
|449||people of concern naturalized|
|202||people of concern supported with access to employment|
|80%||of people of concern have access to primary health care|
|2021 planning figures|
|3,550||people of concern to access free legal aid to access legal status documentation, medical care, livelihoods, permanent residency and naturalization|
|300||stories on UNHCR operations globally to be published in the Russian media|
|250||people of concern obtain legal advice for accessing work opportunities|
|50||families with school-aged children who are out of school to be identified and provided with legal aid to enroll their children|
People of Concern
Operational contextThe COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the introduction of a self-isolation regime in the Russian Federation from March to June 2020 followed by teleworking, strict social distancing and enhanced border controls. The significant economic impact particularly affected people of concern, especially those in the informal job market. The Government extended visas and the validity of refugee documentation until the end of the year, granting unhindered access to basic services.
UNHCR swiftly adjusted to the new working conditions and its partners organized online counselling and mobilized private sector and local communities to support beneficiaries.
The President of the Russian Federation signed a law permitting foreigners to apply for naturalization without renouncing their existing citizenship. The State Duma adopted a legislative amendment formalizing the issuance of temporary identity cards to stateless persons, a change that is expected to be signed into law by the President in 2021. The authorities further simplified the citizenship procedure for foreign citizens and stateless persons permanently residing in Russia.
Following its pledge at the Global Refugee Forum, the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the CIS (IPA- CIS) approached UNHCR for comments on a draft model law on Asylum that may provide a framework for other national parliaments in the CIS to amend domestic legislation, and on a draft model Migration Code.
Population trendsAccording to the Ministry of Interior, the Russian Federation hosted 81,295 people of concern in 2020, 28% fewer than in 2019. Over 8,000 (12%) of the total registered stateless persons obtained Russian citizenship while the number of people with temporary asylum (TA) status fell by 52% to 19,817, mainly attributed to Ukrainian nationals applying for naturalization through simplified procedures or acquiring other legal status.
Of the remaining TA holders, 93% are from Ukraine, 514 from Afghanistan, 359 from the Syrian Arab Republic, 119 from Georgia and 88 from Yemen.
TA recognition rates decreased for Syrian and Georgian asylum-seekers (from 44% to 25% for Syrians; from 86% to 69% for Georgians), and increased for those from Afghanistan (from 40% to 44%) and Yemen (from 56% to 71%).
There were 835 asylum-seekers at the end of year, a decrease by 42% (606 people) compared to 2019.
- UNHCR further developed its collaboration with the State Duma on refugee and asylum matters. Various MPs and think tanks like the Valdai discussion club, CIS Institute, Moscow Policy Group (MPG) and some others provided key inputs into the legislative process and facilitated a number of information sessions with the Committee on the CIS Issues, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots.
- At the invitation of the State Duma, UNHCR intervened at a conference organized by the CIS Institute on Migration Amnesties in December where it presented its policy on asylum and migration within the framework of mixed movements, emphasizing the need for a fair and efficient asylum system for timely identification of people in need of international protection. This point is particularly relevant for the Syrians in the Russian Federation who cannot return to their country of origin.
- Despite cancellation/ postponement of many events, cooperation on asylum and statelessness issues and general awareness-raising events with educational establishments continued. Several courses or lectures were delivered for students of the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Moscow Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), Moscow State University (MGU) and the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN), including the legal clinics course in Nizhny Novgorod and the summer school on migration in St. Petersburg. These interventions are in line with UNHCR’s strategic objective of raising awareness of and gathering support for UNHCR’s mandate in Russia.
- With gradual disengagement from individual case management, quality legal assistance continued to be an important tool for access to the asylum procedures, protection, and solutions. The new legal assistance strategy currently drafted by UNHCR will adjust individual legal assistance and focus on provision of legal assistance through legal partners to cases with merit.
- An inter-agency Working Group on employment, of which UNHCR is a member, supported refugees, TA holders and stateless persons in accessing employment opportunities and facilitating their access to labour markets through a more proactive engagement with the Ministries of Labour and Social Protection and Taxation and Employment Services.
- The Russian Federation is a vast country with a complex administrative structure. Ideally, more regions should be covered with advocacy and awareness-raising and with legal and social assistance.
Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)Flexible funding enabled UNHCR to address the increasing needs of the vulnerable people of concern at the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic with one-time cash assistance. Flexible funding was critical to enable the immediate response and save people from becoming destitute.
Working environmentIn 2020, UNHCR does not anticipate major changes to the number of people of concern in the Russian Federation. UNHCR will continue to engage with traditional governmental and non-governmental partners, as well as seek new partnerships within the framework of the Global Compact on Refugees.
UNHCR will expand its activities to raise awareness on the refugee plights and reinforce national and international partnership. UNHCR will continue to support asylum-seekers and refugees’ access to asylum, livelihood and durable solutions within the Russian Federation through advocacy and the provision of free legal assistance and targeted social support. UNHCR will also continue to provide free legal assistance to stateless persons seeking to regularize their status.
Key prioritiesIn 2020, UNHCR will:
- Expand dialogue with relevant governmental partners in order to increase support for UNHCR’s objectives and activities globally and within the Russian Federation;
- Conduct awareness-raising activities with civil society and the private sector;
- Expand its dialogue with education, employment and other relevant actors to improve asylum-seekers and refugees’ access to social rights and benefits in order to increase their self-reliance and local integration perspectives;
- Maintain its free legal and targeted assistance interventions to support asylum-seekers and refugees’ access to asylum procedures, livelihood and durable solutions;
- Maintain its free legal assistance to stateless persons, and its dialogue on legislative developments to further reduce and prevent statelessness.