A Russian asylum seeker’s escape to freedom from Russia and Finland

by , under Migrant Tales

Migrant Tales insight: Ogneslav Shevchenko, 36, is a Russian national with Ukrainian parents seeking asylum in Europe. Once you get to know him a little, you notice that he has traveled for many years, searching for a country where he is free from persecution. His story is like others seeking asylum and traveling in the sometimes unfriendly and cold corridors of Europe.

Ogneslav Shevchenko

In February 2017 I flew to Finland by plane. The main reason for fleeing Russia was a criminal case against me. Against undesirable authorities of the opposition, the state fabricates criminal cases on fictitious charges and deal with such people with physical violence so they will leave the country. Torture and covert killings are routine in Russian prisons. 

I had difficulties with Migri [Finnish Immigration Service] right away. When I was giving the first interview, I was provided with one translator; during the second interview the translator was changed, and he translated and distorted a little what I said. As a result, I had to correct my statement in the third interview. In general, I was dissatisfied with the quality of the translation and interpreters.

Migri responded to my asylum case after 2.6 years of waiting. This is a violation of the terms of consideration! I have repeatedly complained to Migri and other refugee rights organizations about this, but it was useless. By law, an asylum application must be considered within six months. That’s the time on the document of my interview. But I got an answer after 30 months. There was a well-known case that was reported in the media about an Afghan asylum seeker who committed suicide after four years of waiting for the first decision from Migri. The answer was also negative. Four years of waiting!… 

As a result, and during those 2.6 years I waited, the criminal code in Russia, the one I was persecuted with, was softened and based on that change, I was refused asylum in Finland. There is no criminal case – there is no threat to my life. I have the impression that Migri purposefully waits and takes its time so that matters in the country of asylum seekers will improve so they can then deport them safely to their home country.

“We have too many refugees, and we can’t handle the job.” Such was the given to me by Migri to the question: “Why it took so long to have an answer about my case?”

But they’re cheating!

I conducted my own investigation, comparing the work of the Finnish Migration Service and the Swedish one [Migrationsverket] during 2018. It turned out that from January to September more than 26,000 asylum applications were considered in Sweden, while in Finland there were 4,500 during the same period. Six times less!… 

Comparing the data from the two Nordic countries, I concluded that in Finland, on average, it took three times longer for refugees to get the first answer when compared with Sweden (6 months) even though six times fewer asylum seekers came to Finland.  About 50,000 refugees had arrived in Finland in the last five years [1], and about 300,000 refugees have arrived in Sweden.[2]

Why did Sweden do the job and Finland didn’t? Because Finland didn’t want to cope! That’s my conclusion.

After I received the first negative, an interesting story began with my state lawyer’s work, whom I changed about five times because Migri changed my residence five times in Finland. None of the lawyers wanted to work with me for real. Build a line of defense, say strengths and weaknesses in my business, prompt, help… none of this happened.  The job of the lawyers was to appeal. How can anybody win a court case in such circumstances? The lawyers didn’t want to work and didn’t accept documents from me. They didn’t even respond to my messages. One of them told me to send him a couple of papers, and that’s it. And when I sent him about 10 documents, he refused to handle my case and told me to go to another lawyer, who didn’t do anything except write up a poor appeal. As I mentioned, it is impossible to win any court case with such help from lawyers. I assume that lawyers work this way on purpose. In other words, they do not work at all and refuse to work for refugees, and want their cases to be denied by the courts.

As a result, the Supreme Court of Appeal did not accept the appeal from my lawyer. Having spent all my opportunities in Finland to get due justice, I was forced to leave the country and cross the Tornio River risking falling through the ice and being caught by border guards. The Finnish-Swedish border has been closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

I am not returning to Russia as I am openly threatened with physical violence and new criminal cases against me. I have no choice but to apply for asylum in another country.”

[1] Tilastot — Maahanmuuttovirasto (migri.fi)

[2] Statistics about asylum applications – Swedish Migration Agency (migrationsverket.se)