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Germany sees increase in Russian asylum seekers

Jens Thurau / dc
May 30, 2016

The number of Russians seeking asylum in Germany has risen dramatically. A German paper suspects a plot by the Russian president to create instability in Germany - something many observers dismiss as nonsense.

Asylum seekers in Berlin: number of people who came from Russia has increased againImage: picture-alliance/dpa/G. Fischer

The story on the front page of Monday's edition of "Die Welt" sounds threatening. It posits that a Kremlin power play is behind the strong rise recently in the number of asylum seekers from Russia, and Chechnya in particular. The paper says there are many Salafists among the newcomers from the republic in the Caucasus. It quotes unnamed German security experts who say that Moscow is keeping a close eye on how the migrant crisis is sowing insecurity among the German people, prompting Putin to open the door for Chechens.

Government: Pure speculation

On Monday, a German government spokesperson described the story to DW as "journalistic speculation, in which we are not taking part." Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate did, however, confirm the numbers cited in the newspaper: Between January and May of this year, more than 80 percent of people who have fled from Russia are Chechens. The fifth-largest group of asylum seekers in Germany currently hails from Russia, with around 2,770 refugees. Russia follows Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq.

Other numbers can still be found on the website for the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). According to the site, just 850 people came from Russia in April, which would put it in ninth place.

Whatever the number, relatively few Chechens are ever granted asylum. Only around 6 percent of asylum seekers from the region have their applications approved. State Secretary in the Federal Interior Ministry Ole Schröder (CDU), wants things to stay that way. According to EU rules, asylum seekers have to file their application in the country of the first arrival, and for most of the people coming from Russia, that country is Poland.

Tschetschenien Ramsan Kadyrow Präsident
Chechen President Ramzan KadyrovImage: Getty Images/AFP/Y. Fitkulina

Oppressive situation in North Caucasus

Statistically speaking, there have long been waves of refugees coming from Russia to Germany; it's also true that many of them come from the North Caucasus region. In addition to Chechnya, many come from Dagestan. They're often sick, suffering from cancer, AIDS, or hepatitis. The Chechen government, headed by President Ramzan Kadyrov (supported by Moscow), clamps down brutally on dissidents, and the economic situation is oppressive. "The regime is getting tougher with every passing month. The situation worsened considerably in the past year," Ekaterina Sokirianskaia of the NGO International Crisis Group told "Die Welt."

A house in Germany

Unscrupulous gangs of human traffickers are also practiced at tricking the local population. A spike in the number of asylum seekers two years ago was partially due to a rumor being circulated by traffickers that Germany would grant successful applicants a house and a small plot of land. The situation in Dagestan, where the threat of Islamist terrorism is great, is even worse than in Chechnya. In short, the oppression is high enough, that Moscow does not have to launch a special campaign in order to increase the number of people fleeing the region.

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