MOSCOW, August 20 (RIA Novosti) – More than 11,000 Russians, nearly all of them Chechens, have applied for a political asylum in Germany since January, the German ambassador to Moscow said Tuesday.
“In the first six months of 2013, some 10,000 Russian nationals have requested an asylum in Germany. With July figures added, the number rises to 11,500. Ninety to ninety-five percent of them identify themselves as Chechens. The number is significant, and it causes concern,” Ambassador Ulrich Brandenburg said.
According to statistics provided by Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, the country received a total of 43,016 initial asylum requests from January 1 to June 30 this year, almost twice as many as in the same period last year. Russians make up nearly a quarter of all asylum seekers.
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said the number of asylum seekers in the first six months of this year was the greatest since the same period in 1999, when many people fled the war in Kosovo. A possible reason behind the surge is that Germany’s highest court ruled one year ago that asylum seekers should receive the same social benefits as Germans while their request is being processed.
Analysts are perplexed by the growing number of refugees from Chechnya because there has been no perceptible deterioration of the situation there. Human rights campaigner Svetlana Gannushkina told the BBC that the asylum seekers were possibly motivated by rumors that Germany "has opened its doors to Chechens."
Alvi Karimov, a spokesman for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, could not be reached for comment in time for this publication, a press service employee said.