Five Russian men seeking asylum are currently stranded at Incheon International Airport after South Korean authorities denied their entry into the country and prevented them from leaving the airport.
Dzhashar Khubiev, Vladimir Maraktaev, a man who wished to be identified only by the pseudonym Andrey and two others have remained at the airport’s departure area for months after the South Korean Justice Ministry rejected their application for refugee status.
The men are among the tens of thousands who fled Russia after President Vladimir Putin’s military mobilization order last September.
According to their lawyer, Lee Jong-chan, the South Korean Justice Ministry deemed their application “not being worthy of evaluation” as it does not recognize refusal of conscription as a valid reason for granting asylum.
As they await a decision on their appeal, they are facing difficult living conditions, being provided with limited resources and access to basic necessities.
“They are provided with one meal a day, which is lunch,” Lee was quoted as saying. “But for the rest of the day, they live off bread and drinks.”
Putin declared a partial mobilization of military reservists on Sept. 21, 2022, to support Russia’s military efforts in their invasion of Ukraine.
The call for Russian citizens to fight sparked protests and resulted in a mass exodus of those avoiding the Ukrainian front.
“I left home the night of September 24, a few hours after I received the conscription notice,” Maraktaev, a 23-year-old university student, told The Korea Times. “I decided to leave as soon as possible because they might come to get me in the morning.”
He explained that he specifically chose South Korea because he believes it is a “very developed country in terms of democracy and civil rights.”
Meanwhile, Andrey said he was forced to flee after receiving a conscription notice as he had participated in multiple anti-government rallies long before the invasion of Ukraine.
“The police arrested me and beat me during an hours-long interrogation session.“ he said. “I knew I would be thrown to the front lines because I’m on their blacklist.”
Three of the stranded men are facing their first ruling on Jan. 31, which will decide if their case is “worthy of evaluation.”
Should the court rule in their favor, the Justice Ministry will conduct a review of the men’s applications.
Rights advocates have since been urging the South Korean government to consider the men’s refugee applications as their repatriation may result in persecution.