How to get political asylum?

Political asylum is offered to individuals facing or at risk of persecution in their home country due to political or religious beliefs, or for actions not considered offenses elsewhere. It allows them to enter and stay in another country. This overview covers the legal framework, characteristics of asylum, and potential host states.

Right to political asylum

Asylum grants the right to enter and stay in a state for those persecuted in their home country for socio-political, scientific, or religious reasons. In many European countries, like France and Italy, it aligns with the right to seek asylum elsewhere. Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution, except in cases of non-political crimes or actions against U.N. principles.

The 1967 Declaration on Territorial Asylum asserts that states, by virtue of their sovereignty, grant asylum and determine its grounds. It specifies that individuals seeking asylum should not be denied entry or expelled to countries where they face persecution, except for national security or population protection reasons, including during mass influxes. The declaration also recognizes the right of asylum for those with a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, social group membership, or political opinion.

In Latin America, the right of asylum is governed by the Havana Asylum Convention of 1928 and the Caracas Convention on Territorial Asylum of 1954. Asylum grants the right to legally enter and stay in a state. An asylee differs from a foreigner in that they have no time limit on their stay, cannot be expelled from the asylum-granting state, and cannot be extradited to their home country or a third state. Generally, asylum is for those not guilty of ordinary or international crimes, though some states may have specific criteria and conditions for granting asylum.

Basis for granting political asylum

The primary reasons for granting political asylum include persecution in the home country by authorities due to:

  • Race
  • Nationality
  • Religious affiliation
  • Political views and activities
  • Membership in social groups, such as the LGBT movement.

Businessmen facing political or commercial persecution, often with criminal charges against them, frequently seek political asylum. Persecution encompasses not just physical threats but also discrimination and state-sponsored humiliation. Criminal cases, while not inherently political, can be fabricated due to an individual’s political activities.

How to prove persecution in the country of citizenship?

The chance of obtaining political asylum increases with open criminal proceedings. Without them, evidence of persecution is needed, such as subpoenas, responses to official appeals, media publications, and social network correspondence. Official documents are crucial as they hold significant evidentiary power. In some cases, testimonies confirming harassment, particularly threats, may suffice. Evidence of refusal to initiate criminal proceedings on a persecution claim is also significant.

Types of asylum

Asylum comes in two forms:

  1. Territorial asylum, allowing individuals to seek refuge from political persecution in another country.
  2. Diplomatic (extraterritorial) asylum, offered within the premises of a consular office, diplomatic mission, or on a foreign warship in another country’s territory.

The right to asylum is governed by state constitutions, which declare that stateless persons and foreigners are granted asylum as per legal procedures. While constitutions establish the right to asylum, specific laws detail the procedures. However, in many countries, political asylum granting remains under-regulated and is often based on decisions made by high-ranking officials.

Since the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomatic asylum has largely ceased. The Convention states that the inviolability of diplomatic or consular premises, or the extraterritoriality of a foreign warship, does not justify granting asylum to those prosecuted politically by the host state. It prohibits using diplomatic missions for purposes not aligned with their official functions.

However, diplomatic asylum remains common in Latin American treaty practices. The Havana Convention of 1928 and the Caracas Convention of 1954 acknowledge diplomatic asylum rights and establish procedures for its granting.

Can Asylum Be Applied for While in the Home Country or a Third Country?

To reside in a foreign country, there are two legal bases: refugee status and political asylum. Asylum seekers differ from refugees in that they apply while already in the country of asylum. To apply for political asylum, one must first obtain entry documents, like a visa.

What if you don’t have an open visa?

To seek asylum, one option is to enter a country with a visa-free regime and then apply for a visa. If lacking a passport, find a country allowing entry without one, then obtain a passport from a consulate and a visa. Under U.S. law, the Lautenberg Amendment of 1989 allows applications for asylum at a U.S. Embassy in your country of residence, but only on religious grounds or if you have relatives in the U.S.

You can buy a connecting flight ticket to a country where you don’t need a visa and request asylum at the airport. However, be aware of the risks:

  1. The possibility of deportation, with the best outcome being a subpoena for a court date and temporary release.
  2. Difficulty in finding an attorney as you won’t be allowed to leave the airport.
  3. Police may detain you in immigration jail until your court hearing.
  4. The asylum process changes: administrative asylum is no longer an option.

Understanding global history and politics is beneficial, as some countries have territories with different laws and easier entry procedures. For instance, Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean, offers entry permits upon arrival at the airport to citizens of many countries, though some may need a visa. It’s advisable to check beforehand if your country requires a visa.

What is the best country to seek asylum in?

Applying for asylum is possible in any country where you can enter, such as with a visa. Germany and Austria offer substantial financial support for asylum seekers, including allowances equivalent to unemployment benefits, funds for housing, language courses, and professional training. Sweden and France also provide significant assistance, while support in Spain is lower. Poland and the Baltic States do not offer sufficient funds for living expenses.

Other factors also matter when seeking asylum. For instance, the United States, where there’s no persecution based on nationality, sexuality, or religion, and same-sex marriages are legal, is ideal for those needing protection. In Spain, after three years of residence (even if illegal), one can obtain permanent residency. Lithuania’s authorities decide quickly, within a six-month period.

Where to appeal and how long to wait for a decision?

To apply for asylum, first contact the police or special “arrival points” in most European countries, or a police officer at the airport. Submit your application to the relevant authority in the country; in the U.S., this is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

Processing times vary by country. In Germany, one year is considered fast, with the usual period being two to three years. Other countries may process applications more quickly, with Lithuania having a maximum processing time of six months.

How do I get political asylum in the USA?

In America, the key documents governing political asylum procedures are:

  1. UN Convention (28.07.1951)
  2. US Constitution
  3. 1980 Refugee Act
  4. Citizenship and Immigration Act (27.06.1952)

In America, asylum policies can reflect the current administration’s stance. For instance, under Donald Trump, the focus shifted towards Ukrainian refugees. To apply for political asylum in the U.S., one must:

  • Have been in the country for no more than a year, unless they can justify why they couldn’t apply earlier.
  • Enter the U.S. directly, as it’s expected to seek asylum in any “safe country” en route.
  • Submit all required documentation.
  • Prove a legitimate threat of persecution.

As written above, the general rule is that the application is filed in the United States. However, there is additionally the Lautenberg Amendment of 1989, and it is also possible to apply for protection while at the airport.

The application is filed independently or through an attorney. However, since there are specifics in the law, we recommend filing through a lawyer – otherwise there is a risk of making mistakes and losing time.

The process for submitting asylum documents involves:

  1. Gathering documents for the applicant and accompanying family members.
  2. Writing a personal history detailing persecution, supported by evidence like certificates, photos, and news articles.
  3. Sending these documents to the local USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Service).
  4. Receiving an invitation for biometrics (fingerprints and photo) usually within 10 days of application submission. Biometrics must be submitted within 14 days, or the application will not be considered.
  5. Attending an interview covering detailed personal history.
  6. If approved, receiving a White Card, confirming refugee status and allowing U.S. residency. After one year, applicants can apply for a Green Card, and after five years total, for citizenship, provided they have worked, obeyed laws, know English, and are ready to accept the responsibilities of U.S. citizenship.

If an asylum application in the U.S. is denied, it can be appealed in an independent court. Required documents for the application include:

  1. Application form, available on the USCIS website with instructions.
  2. Recent passport-sized photos (taken within the last month).
  3. Copies of personal documents like passports and driver’s licenses.
  4. Copies of family members’ passports if they are also applying.
  5. A detailed history of persecution with supporting evidence.
  6. Description of the home country’s situation, including reports from human rights organizations and the U.S. State Department.
  7. Evidence of persecution and harassment, such as summonses, court decisions, medical and psychologist reports, expert examinations, photos, videos, and media articles.
  8. Testimonies with a copy of the witness’s passport, if available.

All documents shall be submitted in English only. Materials in other languages must be translated. But notarization of documents is not required.

How to get political asylum in Germany?

Germany, a leading destination for migrants due to its economic development, has a comprehensive legislative process for granting political asylum, detailed in the Asylum Act of 26.06.1992. This law outlines criteria for political refugee status, specific conditions, procedures for applicants, housing provisions, and status termination. It grants legal residence, free movement within Germany, employment rights, and social assistance of 250-300 euros.

In Germany, foreigners facing persecution due to race, religion, nationality, politics, or other reasons, and unable to seek protection in their own country, can receive political asylum. However, those who have committed crimes against peace, humanity, war crimes, or serious non-political crimes outside Germany are not considered refugees.

German law defines persecution as severe enough to violate basic human rights or as a series of actions equivalent to such a violation, including the right to life, prohibition of torture, and personal freedom and integrity. Due to these broad criteria, many are eligible for asylum.

Interestingly, Germany has no standard form for asylum applications; they can be oral, written, or in another format, as long as they express the intent to seek protection from political persecution or deportation. Applications are made to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, which may redirect them if necessary.

At the border without a visa, refugees can request asylum from border guards. However, if they’re at a border with a “safe country,” they will likely be denied.

Upon illegally entering Germany, refugees must immediately apply for asylum at a reception center, police station, or the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. This applies to minor children as well. They must provide identification details, report any residence permits, submit passports and other documents, acquire identity documents if absent, and comply with all identification procedures.

In Germany, all asylum applicants are sent to a designated reception center, essentially a secured area with housing units, a police station, medical center, canteen, etc. Each applicant is entitled to a living space of 6.5 square meters and receives food, hygiene products, clothing, and material assistance from the state. Refugees are required to stay in such a camp for at least 3 months.

Following personal data verification and asylum eligibility assessment, the interview stage occurs. This is crucial, as it forms the basis for the final decision. Applicants must present evidence of persecution and threats to life and health in their home country during the interview.

After the interview, a decision on granting or denying political asylum is made within three months by law, although this can extend up to a year in practice. Decisions can be appealed in court.

How long is political refugee status granted for?

Asylum status can be temporary or permanent. Temporary status is often given to those belonging to persecuted groups in their home country but not personally persecuted, or to LGBT community members. Permanent status allows residency even if the home country’s regime changes and the threat subsides. With permanent status, individuals can eventually apply for citizenship.

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Interpol Lawyer Dmytro Konovalenko
Dmytro Konovalenko
Senior Partner
Lawyer specializing in extradition and Interpol cases, with membership in the International Bar Association. In five years of practice, Dmitry has defended clients against persecution by law enforcement agencies in the United States, Russia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Russia and other countries. He has successfully applied measures to prevent a manhunt at early stages and specializes in defending in complex cases involving economic, political and military charges.
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