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Increase in Russian refugee families is linked to drop in Europe migration
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The Russian government has banned Syrians, Iraqis and people from Eritrea from finding refuge with immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia, state media reported.
Signs of a growing east European exodus to Russia were announced on Monday as the National Refugee Commission said the number of refugees in the country had surged to 17,700 in the first half of 2018, an all-time high.
The Russian interior ministry said it would lift its existing restriction on Kazakh refugees – a pattern seen in the European Union, where a new clampdown on migrants from many African countries is sparking a backlash.
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It is also stepping up its border controls with Ukraine, seeking additional resources for its border guards, which rose 20% last year.
State news agency Tass reported that all Syrians, Iraqis and people from Eritrea wishing to seek asylum in Russia were now banned.
Critics denounced the measures as “misleading”, given the country’s westward-looking migration policy.
Ukraine has deported around 3,000 Iraqis this year as the conflict with pro-Russian separatists in its east rages on.
Two days before the announcement, Moscow said it would open a camp in the Russian Far East for migrants from Iraq, Sudan and Djibouti, in keeping with its “extreme-right policies”.
Ukraine has deported more than 6,000 refugees since the start of 2018, said TASS.
In an effort to pacify people across east Europe, Europe and the US, Russian president Vladimir Putin this year signed a decree annulling the Schengen pact for safe entry and exit across the EU.
In late June, Germany said it would expel 340 people from Georgia and three other countries with no accepted status in Europe, and expel 1,300 others to countries that have abolished the Schengen pact.
As a result, migrants arriving from these countries are already arriving in Turkey, where the total of 8,200 asylum claims by new migrants in June is double the figure from the previous year.
In Britain, one-third of newly arrived asylum seekers in 2018 came from Iraq, according to the Home Office.
Last month, Russian human rights groups and the NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accused Moscow of blocking the resettlement of Syrian refugees.
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Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, some 875,000 people have been killed and millions forced from their homes.
In neighbouring Russia, almost one in four citizens born in 2011 has at least one parent who lived in Syria, according to a study by the Carnegie Moscow Centre.
The 2015 general election included a Russian sex worker who came from Syria. But the case is rare, especially in Russia, which tends to be very much seen as a relatively stable, and welcoming, society.