Elena Burtina, a member of the Citizen’s Assistance Committee and the main contributor to the report “Russia as a Country of Asylum” answers the questions of the German lawyer and public health policy expert for the Die Linke (Left Party) fraction in the German Bundestag Pascal Detzler asked in the December 2016 issue of Legal Dialogue1.
- How is healthcare for asylum seekers regulated in other EU member states and in Russia and what does it look like in practice?
- Asylum seekers are divided into two categories: 1) persons who have received a certificate confirming that an asylum application was handled (those who submitted an application, i.e. persons who are awaiting a decision on refugee status in the Russian Federation); and 2) persons who have received a certificate confirming that an application for temporary asylum in the Russian Federation was handled (those who applied for temporary asylum and are waiting for a decision). Both documents are issued for the processing period of three months. By law, the certificates must be extended for the period of appeal in case an asylum application is rejected, but the authorities do it rarely and very reluctantly. An asylum seeker who applies for a certificate prolongation has waited one month, but the certificate has been extended for a month only. So in one month the person has to do it again and to wait another month; it has to be done several times, and many asylum seekers cannot endure it.
It should also be noted that there is such a category as recognised refugees. Persons with refugee status have the same rights formally for healthcare as Russians. However, in practice an exercise of many rights, including in healthcare, is contingent upon a registration document (a residence permit), and more importantly a permanent one, which many refugees do not have. It includes the rights for free baby nutrition, free medicines and, in the case of those with a serious disease, special medical rehabilitation equipment for the disabled, etc.
Only asylum seekers of the first category are entitled to have an obligatory medical insurance and only for the duration of a certificate. An insurance enables a person to get free medical treatment and to the extent envisaged by the insurance. But an insurance does not cover all types of medical treatment.
Those asylum seekers who have been granted a temporary asylum are entitled to have an obligatory medical insurance for the time of asylum, i.e. usually for one year. They do not enjoy any other rights reserved for small children, seriously ill persons and disabled.
- Have there been any restrictions or widening of healthcare provision, and what can be expected?
- Following a general trend in the country, there is definitely a constantly declining volume of medical treatment which is available free of charge. It includes both Russian citizens and foreigners. In practice, it is becoming harder for foreigners to obtain free medical treatment in Russia, even when they have a right to it, such as in the case of a medical emergency.
- What are the political conflict lines between the parties/groups and between the government and the opposition?
- Disagreements about providing medical treatment to refugees is an issue that does not interest either the government, or the opposition. It is not a topic of a public debate.
- Are there any civil society activities?
- NGOs, which help refugees, make up a tiny segment of the Russian civil society. There are few NGOs among them which can provide medical treatment to refugees. It is only our organisation (Civic Assistance Committee) and the Health and Life Foundation supported by the UNHCR.
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