1) Who is an asylum-seeker in Belarus?
An asylum-seeker in Belarus is a foreign citizen (not citizen of Belarus) or a stateless person, who has approached the state migration authority, officially applied for asylum, but has not yet received an answer to his/her application.
NOTE! Citizen of Belarus cannot apply for asylum in Belarus.
NOTE! UNHCR is not responsible for receiving asylum applications, which should be made with the national authorities.
2) Who can apply for asylum in Belarus?
Foreign citizens (not citizens of Belarus) who are outside their country of origin and stateless persons who are outside their countries of habitual residence and claim to be afraid to return to such a country due to serious risks of mistreatment or fear of persecution upon return for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
3) How and where to apply for asylum in Belarus
You can normally apply for asylum in Belarus regardless of your legal status in Belarus.
To apply for asylum, you should approach in person:
- The office of state migration authority, namely department on citizenship and migration of Minsk city, Minsk region, Brest region, Gomel region, Grodno region, Mogilev region or Vitebsk region.
- The Border Guards upon arrival to Belarus (also if you are in the border crossing point and were not allowed to cross Belarusian border).
- The Border Guards if you are caught for illegal border crossing or attempt thereof.
- The Border Guards or authorities of interior (police) if you are caught for illegal stay / residence in Belarus.
- The authorities of interior (police) if you are detained for the purpose of deportation or expulsion from Belarus.
- The administration of detention facility or investigation body if you are detained for the purpose of extradition.
In all circumstances you should explicitly say that you want to seek asylum in Belarus and state officials will then have to receive your application.
NOTE! It is strongly recommended to apply for asylum as soon as possible as it shows your genuine intention to obtain protection in Belarus.
NOTE! The fact that you stayed in Belarus for some time before applying for asylum, does not mean that your asylum application will not be received.
NOTE! You have an obligation to conform to laws and regulations of Belarus and to cooperate with authorities. Once you have applied for asylum, you have to follow the procedure.
4) Confidentiality of information
All the information you provide during your application for asylum (documents, records during asylum interview with you) is confidential. It means that it will not be disclosed without your clearly expressed permission. In any case, information is not disclosed to the country of nationality or habitual residence.
NOTE! When applying for asylum, you can give permission to share your personal information with UNHCR.
5) Reception conditions
State asylum authorities may transfer an asylum-seeker to another region of Belarus for stay during the examination of the asylum application. This is done as a matter of practice for almost all people applying for asylum in the city of Minsk. In such cases, a person will be accommodated at a reception facility managed by state authorities in the regions.
NOTE! According to the legislation in Belarus, there can be circumstances when an asylum-seeker can be placed in detention. This may happen in the following circumstances:
- for identification of an asylum-seeker who does not have valid ID documents at the moment of asylum application
- if state asylum authority considers a person’s asylum application as abusive or unfounded
6) Asylum interview
The asylum interview is a very important step of the asylum process. It is conducted by an official of the state migration authority. The asylum interview is an opportunity for you to provide as much information as possible in support of your application. Make sure to provide all documents and written evidence supporting your asylum claim (if any):
- Identification documents (e.g. passport, ID card, travel documents).
- Individual and status documents (e.g., birth and/or marriage and/or divorce certificates, guardianship documents).
- Educational documents (e.g., school/university certificates/diplomas).
- Employment documents (e.g., certificate, working records, card).
- Membership/union cards (e.g., political parties, non-governmental organizations, associations).
- Any other official documentation issued by officials of the country of your nationality or previous place of residence.
NOTE! Absence of relevant documents or evidence is not a cause for rejection of your claim. The interview is an opportunity to establish the facts, assess the fears for return, and grounds for granting of asylum. During asylum interviews you should provide all necessary explanations and details. UNHCR will make the necessary arrangements for the appointment and communicate the relevant information to you.
NOTE! You should abide by the appointment date and all other steps of the procedure, otherwise your application can be considered abandoned. Usually, interpretation for the purpose of asylum application is provided by UNHCR or a UNHCR NGO partner.
NOTE! You and your family members should be ready for asylum interview(s) with the state migration authority. You and your family will be notified on the date and time of asylum interview(s) by the state migration authority.
NOTE! Please make sure that you provide truthful information throughout the whole procedure of seeking asylum in Belarus.
NOTE! Belarusian legislation does not prohibit to hire a lawyer / advocate for a person. But such lawyer should have license to be able to represent legal interests of a person. Unfortunately, none of UNHCR personnel and employees / legal consultants of the Refugee Counselling Service, legal NGO partner of UNHCR, possess such licenses. At the same time, UNHCR and legal NGO partner are providing free of charge legal counselling on variety of issues related to asylum.
7) Documents issued to aslyum-seekers
When you apply for the aslyum at the state migration authority you will be provided with a certificate on application for asylum in Belarus.
After you undergo asylum interview, the state migration authority will register your asylum application and issue a certificate on registration of asylum application in Belarus. This document will be with you until the end of state asylum procedure.
NOTE! Your passport will be stored at the office of the state migration authority for the duration of state asylum procedure.
8) Documents issued to persons granted protection in Belarus
If you are granted refugee status in Belarus, you will be provided with a refugee certificate which confirms that you have been granted refugee status and also identifies your personality.
Also, refugee status gives you the right to obtain permit for permanent residence in Belarus.
NOTE! State migration authorities will retain your passport. However, you can get other documents (in addition to refugee certificate).
- permanent residence document (identifies your personality, provided after receipt of permit for permanent residence in Belarus based on granted refugee status, only for use inside Belarus)
- travel document (provided based on granted refugee status upon specific request, valid for travels outside Belarus)
If you are granted complementary protection in Belarus, you will get a certificate on granting of complementary protection (confirms that you have been granted complementary protection). Complementary protection gives you the right for permit for temporary residence for up to 1 year (renewable).
NOTE! State migration authorities will return your passport after you have been granted complementary protection.
9) Rights and obligations (asylum-seekers)
Asylum-seekers have the following obligations:
- Respect the laws and regulations of Belarus.
- Undertake a compulsory medical examination and fingerprinting procedure as part of the asylum procedure (both are free-of-charge).
Asylum-seekers have the following rights and entitlements:
- Medical treatment:
- children of asylum-seekers: all types of medical treatment on a part with citizens
- adult asylum-seekers: only emergency medical treatment is free of charge
- Education in preschool up to secondary education on a par with citizens for children of asylum-seekers.
- Employment for adult asylum-seekers on a par with foreign citizens permanently residing in Belarus what means without the need to obtain a special permit.
- Protection from forced return (refoulement) to the country of origin or former permanent residence while Belarusian state migration authorities examine the application for asylum.
- Exemption from punishment for illegal entry into Belarus and illegal residence in Belarus (if an asylum-seeker entered illegally with the aim of seeking asylum and approaches the state migration authority as soon as possible).
- Receipt of documents for duration of state asylum procedure (in replacement of passport or any other ID document(s) which is temporarily taken by the state migration authority).
- Receipt of financial assistance from the Government of Belarus to buy food (one-time), clothes (one-time), to cover temporary expenses on accommodation (applications must be submitted to state migration authorities).
- Accommodation in a temporary accommodation centre for asylum-seekers (subject to availability of places).
10) Rights and obligations (persons granted protection)
Foreign citizens and stateless persons granted refugee status or complementary protection in Belarus enjoy the most important socio-economic rights on a par with citizens of Belarus or foreigners with permit for permanent residence in Belarus (for instance, possibility to work without the need to obtain a special permit).
Children of people with refugee status or complementary protection are entitled to preschool and secondary education as well as medical treatment on a par with citizens of Belarus.
11) Possible outcomes of state asylum procedure
There are three possible outcomes:
- You are granted refugee status
- You are granted complementary protection
- You are rejected in granting of protection
NOTE! You can obtain information on your asylum application as well as your rights and obligations from the relevant state migration authorities and/or the Refugee Counseling Service (refer to the provided contact details).
If your asylum application is rejected, you may submit an appeal to the court. The appeal phase is as follows:
- For cases that were reviewed within the ordinary procedure there are two appeal instances, with 15 days to submit the appeal (each instance).
- For cases that were reviewed within the accelerated procedure (abusive and manifestly unfounded claims) there is only one appeal instance, with 7 days to submit the appeal.