Not Many Syrian Refugees Welcomed in Russia
Tens of thousands of refugees from Syria continue toflee unrest by traveling to Europe and neighboringcountries.
But many do not seek refuge in Russia, despitelongtime political and economic relations between thetwo countries.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, there were 238,836 refugees and asylum seekers in Russia as of January. Only2,340 were from Syria. And that number has dropped to about 1,600.
Turkey has taken in over 2 million Syrians. Germany is expected to have as many as 1.5 million refugees by the end of this year. Most of those refugees are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
This photo from the Syrian official news agency SANA shows Syrians rallying in front of the Russian Embassy in Damascus to show their thanks to Russia for its intervention in Syria, Oct. 13, 2015. But few Syrians who leave their country are finding Russia welcoming.
Bayisa Wak-Woya is the UNHCR representative for Russia. He said, “Unlike in the West, where peoplehave a tradition of dealing with asylum-seekers andrefugees for the last six, seven decades, here it’s a fairly new phenomenon.” And many in Russia view refugees as foreigners and migrants.
Another reason is the great distance from Syria to Russia. The distance between Moscow and Damascus is about 2,500 km. That means most Syrian asylum-seekers have to come by plane, not by boat, bus, and train like those arriving in Europe.
A UNHCR spokesman says Russia's airstrikes could increase the number ofSyrian refugees to neighboring countries like Turkey. But he adds that a jump in the number of asylum seekers arriving in Russia is unlikely.
Russia has granted refugee status for 790 people as of January. Most are from Afghanistan and Ukraine. Only two persons are from Syria.
Elena Burtina is with the refugee aid group Civic Assistance Committee inMoscow. She notes that the much smaller Republic of Malta has givenrefugee status to more people than Russia.
"Russia ratified the convention on refugees," she said. "It's taken on the responsibility to accept them. Of course it should do more. They shouldn't have signed if they didn't want refugees. They weren't forced to do it."
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Daniel Schearf reported this story for VOANews. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
asylum – n. protection given by a government to someone who has leftanother country in order to escape being harmed
ratify – v. to make a treaty, agreement, etc. official by signing it or voting for it
status - n. the official position of a person or thing according to the law