Sun | Dec 11, 2016

Scores of Russian gays are seeking asylum in US

Published:Monday | December 1, 2014 | 12:00 AM

NEW YORK (AP):

Had he stayed in Russia, Andrew Mironov would be settling in to a stable job with an oil company, likely with a newly awarded doctoral degree in electrical engineering.

Instead, he faces an uncertain future in New York City as one of scores of Russian gays seeking asylum in the United States (US) because of hostility and harassment in their homeland.

"In Russia, I would have gotten my PhD this fall, had a job and health insurance," said Mironov, 25. "Now, here, I'm nobody."

Yet the sacrifices have been worth it, Mironov says, given the fears that lingered after he was severely beaten by several assailants in the lobby of a gay bar in his home city of Samara.

"Which is more important, happiness or success?" he asked over coffee in midtown Manhattan. "I would say happiness. I feel no fear here."

There are no firm statistics on the number of gay Russian asylum seekers; US government agencies that handle applications do not report such details. However, the Department of Homeland Security's latest figures show that overall applications for asylum by Russians totalled 969 in the 2014 fiscal year, up 34 per cent from 2012.

The increase is due in part to the worsening anti-gay climate in Russia, according to Immigration Equality, a New York-based organisation which provides legal services for

lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender immigrants.

The organisation says the number of enquiries it received from gay Russians seeking US asylum has risen from 68 in 2012 to 127 in 2013 and 161 through October 30 of this year. During that period, gay-rights gatherings in Russia were frequently

targeted by assailants, and the parliament passed a law targeting "gay propaganda" that was widely viewed as a means of deterring gay activism.