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Step forward in asylum procedure  for women asylum-seekers from Chechnya

The Viovidship Administrative Court stated in judgement that the Council for Refugee Affairs is responsible for examination of the situation of women in the country of origin in the context of the risk of being victims of domestic violence.  

Such decisions was adopted in relation to the case provided by the Association for Legal Intervention and is a promising step forward women from Chechnya and the North Caucasus Republics, who are  victims of domestic violence and prosecution form the side of husbands and male relatives and  who are trying to find protection from abusive families in Poland. The decision highlights the importance to recognize domestic violence as grounds for seeking and being granted international protection. 

Domestic abuse is defined as: ‘any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality’. Looking on asylum law and practice European states are  still often blind to gender dimensions of asylum as soon as particular forms of persecution and human rights abuses that women experience because they are women  -  are not considered as persecution by state authorities within the meaning of the Geneva Convention. Summing up,  it means that victims of domestic violence can not obtain the refugee status. 

The major group among applicants for International protection in Poland are ethnic Chechens with Russian citizenship and the significant group are women. According to the official data of the Office for  Foreigners in 2020 there were more (851) decisions issued concerning women applicants  than men (774),  although because of political context in the country, in both cases negative decisions prevail.

Despite the unfavourable reception system, maintained by the anti-immigrant government, Poland is an important destination for women fleeing from the North Caucasus republics. As human rights organisations alarm that women from the Chechen Republic are among the most vulnerable as that they might be persecuted not only by their relatives but also by the law enforcement agencies. Despite that formally Chechnya  forms part of the Russian Federation, the significant impact on the situation of women and ability to protect their rights are severely sanctioned by the religion and tradition. Moreover, in Russia, violence against women is an offence subject to private prosecution, meaning that the victim have to initiate criminal proceedings by themselves. Exposed to widespread domestic violence, in fear of honor killing or of loosing their children (children can be taken away by force by the family of the husband), women have limited  if even no chances to find protection both in Chechnya and  Russia and have to seek for protection abroad. 

According to the Court decision, the Council for Refugee Affairs may take all appropriate measures in order to establish the facts  concerning the real availability of help and protection of victims of domestic violence in the country of origin.

Kseniya Homel 
NIEM’s National Advocacy Officer
The European and Migration Policy Programme
Institute of Public Affairs


Wyrok WSA: przemoc domowa w kraju pochodzenia a Konwencja Genewska 21.08.2020

Human rights in modern-day Chechnya 

No Right to Protection: Legal Status of Women from North Caucasus Seeking Asylum in Poland [07.02.2019].

Migracje.gov.pl  [25.08.2020].

International protection in Poland: 1st half of 2020