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    Refugee Rights in Russia, US, France and Italy

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    The World Humanitarian Day is celebrated this Tuesday. It marks the anniversary of the UN Headquarters bombing in Baghdad in 2003 when 22 people, including UN humanitarian veteran Sergio Vieira de Mello, were killed.

    MOSCOW, August 19 (RIA Novosti) - The World Humanitarian Day is celebrated this Tuesday. It marks the anniversary of the UN Headquarters bombing in Baghdad in 2003 when 22 people, including UN humanitarian veteran Sergio Vieira de Mello, were killed.

    Below is a factbox on the rights of refugees in Russia, the United States, France and Italy.


    The Federal Law On Refugees was passed on February 19, 1993 and governs the procedure for recognizing the refugee status and rights of refugees.

    A recognized refugee and his family members are eligible to receive accommodation, such as a house, apartment or room in a dormitory from the transition housing fund. They may stay at a refugee transition center where they are provided with free meals and access to utilities until their new place of residence is identified.

    The refugees are distributed among Russia’s regions in accordance with a quota established annually by the government.

    Refugees are eligible to transport and baggage allowances when they travel to their temporary places of residence. They lose their eligibility to a spot in the transition housing fund when they buy, receive or rent other housing. Upon the receipt of a certificate of filing for refugee status, a lump sum allowance in the amount of at least 100 roubles is paid to each family member.

    Refugees are provided with translation services and consultations regarding their rights and duties as long as they reside in Russia and receive the necessary medical and medicinal assistance. They are eligible to employment counselling and vocational training, as well as to placing their children in public or municipal preschool or general education institutions and vocational schools or transferring them to educational institutions of secondary and higher vocational training.

    Just like Russian citizens, refugees have the right to participate in social activities and engage in gainful or entrepreneurial activities (without a special work permit). Refugees with entitlements are eligible to social protection and welfare as are Russian citizens.

    The federal executive migration bodies assist refugees in obtaining information concerning their relatives, who remain in their country of origin.

    Any refugee can apply for permanent residence in Russia or Russian citizenship.

    Refugees can return voluntarily to their country of origin or leave for another foreign country.

    Refugees must renew their status every 18 months.

    United States

    Refugee status and rights in the United States are regulated by the Refugee Act passed by Congress in 1980. In 1989, the Lautenberg Amendment was introduced into this document, which allowed certain people to obtain refugee status not only in the United States but also in immigration departments of US embassies in some countries.

    There is a sponsored quota for providing refugee status. Once this quota is used up, applicants can only receive a parolee status, even if all the formal requirements for refugee status are met. This status does not entitle a parolee to the government support that comes with refugee status.

    Following the confirmation of their status, refugees have to adapt to life in the United States within 30 days. They are provided with an opportunity to attend free English-language classes, and receive food stamps and health insurance certificates. Sometimes they are able to receive assistance with housing rentals and bank loans.

    Individuals with refugee status in the United States have the right to work and receive professional training and retraining.

    After one month, a social caseworker must ensure that the refugees have received the full package of social assistance from the state, and disabled and elderly family members have applied for pensions and benefits. A caseworker must also monitor compliance with the required living standards, availability of home furniture, and the enrolment of underage children in schools and preschools.

    Over the first eight months, refugees receive financial assistance in the amount of $300 to $400 if they are unemployed and about $200 if one or more family members are employed but their combined income is still insufficient.

    Payments can cease earlier in case of the failure to visit adaptation programs or job interviews offered by social workers.

    Refugee children, who arrived in the United States unaccompanied by an adult are entitled to allowances and benefits until they turn 18.

    Refugees are entitled to reunite with their families in their respective countries of origin. This right applies to spouses and unmarried children under 21. Applications for family reunification can be filed within two years of arrival to the United States.

    Refugee status can be maintained indefinitely. After one year of residing in the country as a refugee and in the absence of violations of US law, a refugee can apply for permanent resident status. The Green Card application is filed free of charge. Refugees are also exempted from fingerprint fees.

    Refugees can travel outside the United States for tourism or business purposes. To do so, they first need to obtain a Refugee Travel Document.


    In France, the right to refugee status is enshrined in Article 53-1 of the Constitution. Granting refugee status falls within the competence of the Office for Refugees (OFPRA). Following the confirmation of the status, a refugee receives an identification card that can be automatically renewed for up to 10 years.

    A refugee can only lose this card if he becomes a public threat in the host country, or is caught engaging in a polygamous marriage.

    Refugees are provided with free food and housing or temporary accommodation for up to six months, renewable once at a Refugee Reception Center (CADA).

    In addition, an urgent accommodation program is available where a person in need of shelter can be accommodated at a hostel or hotel for one or two days.

    While they wait for a spot at a reception center, refugees are entitled to receive social benefits that vary depending on the region and the number of refugee family members. The benefits cease if an entitled person refuses to stay at the CADA.

    Refugees have equal rights to French citizens regarding the right to employment and vocational training, as well as free schooling for their children. The enrolment can be done based on the place of registration or actual residence of a refugee family. Refugee children aged six to 11 are automatically enrolled in elementary schools. To enrol children over 11 with a school, refugee parents must seek help at the Center of Information and Professional Orientation at their place of residence.

    In terms of social protection, refugees have the same rights and benefits as French citizens. They are eligible to receive family support benefits in the course of two years. Persons over 25 can take advantage of a solidarity income.

    Refugee minors under the age of 18 (up to 16 for employed refugees) enjoy social protection offered by the OFPRA.

    When they purchase their first housing, refugees are exempt from paying the taxes involved in this transaction.

    Upon the request of a refugee, the local authorities may give the individual a special travel document that is valid for one to two years, which will allow him to travel to countries other than their country of origin. Upon the expiry and provision of the necessary documents, the travel document can be renewed.

    Refugees are eligible to apply for family reunification. This right extends to spouses or partners and children under 19. In this case, the applicant does not need to prove their financial status.

    Refugees can apply for French citizenship without having to comply with the European requirement for a mandatory five-year stay in a country. However, they must pass a French-language test and be properly integrated into French society.

    A refugee may at any time waive his status. The decision is final and applies also to his immediate family members.


    Refugee rights in Italy are regulated by the 1989 Martelli Law.

    The final decision regarding refugee status is made by the National Refugee Council, which was established in 1990.

    Upon the approval of refugee status, immigrants receive a residence permit that is valid from one year to two years and can be later renewed. A refugee can only be deported for national security reasons or violating public law and order.

    Immigrants with refugee status fall under a special integration program that offers assistance in vocational training and employment.

    Refugees have the same rights to healthcare, professional training and education as Italian citizens. They are issued work permits that also make them eligible to hold public jobs. Holders of refugee status are eligible to receive pensions and other social benefits. Refugee children can attend the educational institution of their choice.

    Refugees are provided assistance in receiving loans for buying or leasing housing. If they cannot buy or lease, they can reside at a Temporary Accommodation Center for six months with the option to extend their stay.

    Refugees receive benefits over their first six months in the country. Families with objective difficulties or particular vulnerabilities may have this entitlement extended to nine months.

    Refugees have the right to reunite with their families, such as a spouse or partner with whom they are not married officially or a child under 18, including one born out of marriage if the latter is not married. They can similarly reunite with adult children with disabilities who are dependent on the refugee and unemployable parents, if they have no other children, or with parents over 65, if for health reasons other children cannot provide them with the requisite level of care.

    After five years of residing in Italy, refugees are entitled to apply for Italian citizenship.

    Refugees can travel freely across Italy and abroad. Visas are not required if the duration of their stay in a country that is part of the Schengen Agreement does not exceed three months.

    If desired, refugees can voluntarily return to their country of origin, thus losing their refugee status.

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