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Two Chechens Fleeing Persecution Offered Asylum in Lithuania

The Baltic country may be the first in the world to receive gays escaping a reported purge against homosexuals, while Poland continues to send back asylum seekers to Belarus. 

19 May 2017

Despite worldwide condemnation of the persecution of gays in Chechnya, one of the only countries willing to receive such asylum seekers so far has been Lithuania. The Baltic state gave asylum to two men, Pink News writes, citing the Russian Interfax news agency.  

 

 “We have consistently raised these issues both within the EU and in the parliamentary structures of the Council of Europe – regarding the possibility of helping and, if necessary, granting asylum,” Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said, after confirming the news that the men had been persecuted because of their sexual orientation.

 

A furor over the treatment of gays in the conservative Muslim republic, and even their existence, broke out when Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that more than 100 gay men had been rounded up and tortured, at least three of them dying in the process.

 

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has denied allegations of a wave of repression against gay men in the Russian republic, while a spokesman of his denounced the report as “absolute lies and disinformation,” saying in any case there were no gays in Chechnya.

 

A Russian LGBT group has said that “conversations with the U.S. embassy have led it to believe that visas to the United States are out of reach for gay Chechens,” BuzzFeed reported.

 

While Lithuania has been praised for its stance, Poland has been criticized for its treatment of Chechens and others seeking asylum. In a report published in March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote that Polish border guards were “systematically denying asylum seekers the chance to lodge an asylum request at Terespol [a Polish town near the border] and sending them back to Belarus, a breach of Poland’s obligations under EU, human rights, and refugee law.”

 

Although Polish officials argue that the asylum seekers have been economic migrants, Lydia Gall, a researcher for HRW wrote this week that people she had interviewed told a different story, of torture, enforced disappearances, blood feuds, and political persecution awaiting them back in Chechnya and Tajikistan, where many of them are from. Additionally, the lack of an efficient asylum system in Belarus increases the security risks for the asylum seekers, who can be pursued even abroad by security forces from their home countries.

 

 

  • Last summer, more than 1,000 Chechens were waiting in Belarus and hoping to cross into Poland, according to some estimates. Although more than 5,300 people sought asylum in Poland in the first half of 2016, only 42 individuals were granted refugee status, according to the Office for Foreigners. The department also said that most applicants were Russian nationals of Chechen origin, Tajiks, and Ukrainians.  

 

  • Around 40 Chechen gays and bisexuals have been hiding in other parts of Russia, not able to acquire visas from a country willing to take them in, according to Buzzfeed. 

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu

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