Syrians Flee War. What Drives People From Russia?

August 12, 2013

While Russia has granted political asylum to an American whistleblower, Snowden, and launched a campaign against illegal immigrants, the outflow of Russian citizens who seek a better life in Europe is on the increase.

Early this year, the number of asylum seekers from Russia in the European Union exceeded the number of refugees from Syria, a country engulfed in civil war.

The European Union Statistical Office, Eurostat, published data on political asylum applications in the 27 member countries for the first three months of the year. Compared with the period from January to March of last year, the number of potential refugees has increased by 15,000, reaching 85,000 people.

Over this period 8,435 Russians applied to the EU immigration authorities. Half of those seeking asylum were minors (usually family members. – AM). This is the largest “country contingent,” followed by Syrians: the recorded asylum seekers from that country numbered 8,395.

Compared with the first quarter of last year, the flow of Syrian refugees seeking asylum in the EU grew by six thousand people, as the result of the civil war’s escalation. The flow of Russians has also increased significantly – by four thousand people. The reasons are less obvious.

The numbers for 2008 show that Russia ranked third in the world for the number of its citizens granted asylum abroad, after Somalia and Iraq. Today, in the EU, it comes out on top.

Most asylum applications were submitted in the most populous and economically powerful Germany. At least 80,000 applicants lined up at the country’s immigration offices. Relatively small Belgium remains one of the most attractive destinations for refugees. By the number of applications under consideration (28,000), it is behind only Germany, and the EU peripheral country, Greece.

The chances of those who are looking to settle down in Europe at the expense of its taxpayers are not the same. They depend on the current immigration policies of a particular EU member. Most applicants are denied in France (84%), Germany (65%), and Sweden (52%). For the rest of the EU, the chances to get an affirmative decision are estimated as at least “fifty-fifty.”