The Portuguese government has declared its negative attitude towards the idea of a ban on issuing visas to Russians in the European Union. The office of the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasizes that "the purpose of sanctions against Moscow should be to punish the Russian military machine, not the Russian people." However, Portugal will take part in the discussion of this issue between 27 member states, which will be held on August 31, according to Eco.
Meanwhile, the number of visas issued to Russians has reached its lowest level since 2010. From 2012 to 2014, Russians received an average of 5-7 million short-stay Schengen visas per year, and another 500,000 non-immigrant visas to the US, UK and Canada. After Crimea, issuance fell by 35-40%, and by 2021 - by 88%, the researchers of the To Be Exact project write .
According to the statistics of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, since the beginning of 2022, Russians have crossed borders with visa countries 1.3 million times, of which almost half of the crossings have been with border countries Estonia and Finland. At the same time, the share of trips to visa countries fell from 18.3% to 14.7% compared to the first half of 2021. For comparison, before the start of the pandemic, trips to visa countries accounted for 42.8% of all trips of Russians abroad, that is, almost three times more than now.
Half of the thirty most popular destinations among Russians (by number of border crossings since 2010) require visas. They account for 38% of all trips of Russian citizens over the past 11 years.
Most often, Russians visited Finland, China, Estonia, Germany and Poland, for the purpose of tourism - China, Spain, Greece, Germany and Italy. The private trips of Russians were mainly to the border countries - Finland, Estonia, Poland, China and Lithuania.
To cross borders (with the exception of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and unrecognized or partially recognized republics), a passport is required. There is no open data on how many Russian citizens have these passports, however, in 2016, the Levada Center (recognized as a foreign agent in the Russian Federation) conducted a survey on the presence of this document. The results showed that 28% of citizens have a foreign passport, and the majority of Russians have never been abroad.
The percentage of positive decisions on granting asylum for citizens of the Russian Federation at the first consideration, on average across the EU countries, reaches 20%, after appeals - 15.6%, according to "To be precise."
According to Eurostat, since 2012, 153,000 Russians have requested asylum in the EU countries, during the same time 35,000 have received refugee status. Of the countries where more than a thousand people requested asylum during this time, Germany (89%), Norway (88%) and Poland (85%) were most often refused, the UK (54%), Switzerland (56%), and Austria least often (56%).
Supporters of the introduction of visa restrictions suggest that Russians seek political asylum in European countries in case of a threat. However, in reality, the request for refugee status is the last thing people resort to, the researchers note.
Lawyer Gleb Bogush notes that there was no specifics with the offer of asylum for persecuted Russian citizens, and in reality it is much more complicated than it was proposed. “In the EU countries, up to 90% of refusals to grant refugee status to representatives of the Russian Federation. In addition, there are terms for consideration - it can take years, ”adds the expert.
“Short-term visas allow you to leave the country, and there you can try to legalize or apply for asylum. Flying into a country without a visa and claiming asylum at the airport doesn't work that way. No one will put you on a plane without a visa, because the carrier company is responsible for the removal of a citizen, ”explains Olga Tseitlina, a specialist in migration law, a lawyer at the St. Petersburg Bar Association.
Meanwhile, the Portuguese edition reminds that some countries are already refusing or restricting Russian visa applications. After the February events, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland stopped issuing new tourist visas to citizens of the Russian Federation. Then there was Estonia, which introduced entry restrictions for Russians with visas issued by their services, and is trying to prevent the entry of Russian citizens with visas from other EU member states.
Finland, which shares Europe's longest border with Russia, will reduce the number of Russian tourist visa applications from September 1 to just 10% of the usual 1,000 received per day. Finnish law makes a total ban impossible based on the nationality of the applicant.
Denmark will also impose restrictions on tourist visas for citizens of the Russian Federation if there is no coordinated decision among the member countries of the Commonwealth.
In addition to Portugal, so far Germany, Greece and Cyprus are against such a decision.
In 2021, 26 Schengen countries received about 3 million visa applications. Russian citizens made up the largest group of applicants - 536,000, only 3% of requests were rejected.
Experts believe that within the framework of the current regulation, the abolition of the issuance of short-term Schengen visas (category C) at the pan-European level is impossible.
“If we are talking about changing legislation, then it also requires consensus, ratification of these documents in states, parliaments and the consent of the European Parliament. I think that the issuance of visas will be reduced, including simply for practical reasons. For example, Finland announced that it would accept documents in St. Petersburg once a week. Most likely, they will consider documents more carefully, as the policies of different states were built before,” says Bogush.
It will not be easy for European countries to impose tougher restrictions, Tseytlina agrees with him: “Many people have already left. Moreover, European countries will not be able to waive their obligations to grant refugee status to Russians with individual risks. A small percentage of people leave anyway, so such restrictions only make life more difficult for those who want to leave or visit their families.”