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No spike in people seeking asylum from Russia in Ireland, O'Gorman says

Minister Roderic O’Gorman said applications made will also be treated on an “individualised basis”.

Minister for Integration Roderic O'Gorman
Minister for Integration Roderic O'Gorman
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THERE HASN’T BEEN a spike in the number of people seeking asylum from Russia, according to Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman.

O’Gorman said applications made will also be treated on an “individualised basis”.

He told The Journal that there has not been a spike in the number of people seeking international protection from Russia in Ireland. 

This comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin last week announced what he described as a “partial” conscription across the country.

The call up is understood to affect around 300,000 men of military age – although there are already reports from Russia that the real figure could be far higher. 

On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov downplayed reports of draft-age men from Russia fleeing en masse after Putin’s announcement.

Following the news from Russia, German ministers indicated that people escaping Russia could apply for asylum in Germany. 

When asked by The Journal on Friday if Ireland would be willing to follow in Germany’s footsteps, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said:

“I think we’d have to assess all of that. I mean, in the first instance, we are accepting Ukrainian families who are fleeing war. That has been a priority for us, along with normal asylum seeking applicants, which is kind of way up this year.

That is putting a lot of pressure on the country. So we have to work within our capacities, to be frank.

The Taoiseach said that Ireland has never shied away from taking in people who are fleeing regions where they may be at risk. 

“We’ve never refused people who are fleeing because conscience issues or fleeing persecution. So for example, in Afghanistan, we would have facilitated a number of journalists and academics to leave Afghanistan because of the position they would have taken in respect of the Taliban.

So we play a role internationally in terms of people of conscience, who have stood up to regimes. But clearly there are a lot of challenges there.

Other European countries

In France, senators are arguing that Europe has a duty to help and warned that not granting refuge to fleeing Russians could play into Putin’s hands, feeding his narrative of Western hostility to Russia.

“Closing our frontiers would fit neither with our values nor our interests,” a group of more than 40 French senators said.

Turning away fleeing Russians would be “a mistake by Europe in the war of communication and influence that is playing out”.

Yet other EU countries are adamant that asylum should not be offered to Russian men fleeing now — when the war has moved into its eighth month.

They include Lithuania, which borders Kaliningrad, a Russian Baltic Sea exclave.

Its foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, tweeted: “Russians should stay and fight. Against Putin.”

His counterpart in Latvia, also an EU member bordering Russia, said the exodus poses “considerable security risks” for the 27-nation bloc and that those fleeing now cannot be considered conscientious objectors since they did not act when Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Many “were fine with killing Ukrainians, they did not protest then,” the Latvian foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, tweeted.

He added that they still have “plenty of countries outside EU to go”.

Finland also said it intends to “significantly restrict” entry to Russians entering the EU through its border with Russia.

A Finnish opposition leader, Petteri Orpo, said fleeing Russian military reservists were an “obvious” security risk and “we must put our national security first”.

Georgia and Kazakhstan

Neighbouring countries have seen Russians arriving en masse since the draft was announced last Wednesday, with hours-long queues at border crossings.

Yesterday, Central Asian nation Kazakhstan said around 98,000 Russians entered the country since Wednesday.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev vowed to protect the safety and welfare of Russians fleeing a “hopeless situation”.

Russians have also headed to the neighbouring Black Sea nation of Georgia, which saw the number of Russians arriving daily nearly double since the mobilisation announcement.

Yesterday, the local interior ministry in a Russian region that borders Georgia said the situation at the border was “extremely tense”.

The ministry added that a mobile mobilisation office will be set up at the border in the “near future”.

Moscow has said it will not request the extradition of Russians travelling abroad to avoid being called-up to fight in Ukraine.

“The Russian ministry of defence has not sent any request to the authorities of Kazakhstan, Georgia, or any other country for the alleged forced return to Russian soil of Russian citizens, and it is not planning to do so,” the ministry said in a statement.

With reporting by Christina Finn, Press Association and © – AFP, 2022

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