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Two Russians Who Escaped the Draught in Alaska Are Awaiting Asylum Judgments in Washington State

According to interviews with their lawyer and those who welcomed them upon arrival, the first and only known Russian refugees to flee Vladimir Putin’s draught to Alaska were dissidents who set out on a five-day journey across the Bering Strait in a small fishing boat after hearing Russian authorities knock on their front doors.

Early in October, the two guys arrived on a little island community on an island’s point. In order to conceal their identities from the Russian authorities, Sergey and Maksim are currently being kept in a prison facility in Tacoma, Washington, while their attorney attempts to get them released on parole.

According to Nicolas McKee, a staff attorney with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, “the majority of detainees are kept in conditions that are comparable to prison.” “These men were compelled to leave Russia even if they didn’t want to… You either live or die.

The men’s story highlights the lengths that migrants from Russia will go to in order to avoid orders to fight in Ukraine, and it comes as the Biden administration considers extending its policy for Russians’ access to the U.S. refugee program as tens of thousands of people flee the conflict to the country.

On October 3, a fishing boat landed a few hundred yards in front of Curtis Silook’s house as he and his kids were gathering ducks along the Gambell coast, an Alaskan town on the tip of St. Lawrence Island. He imagined it was locals getting ready for a storm when he witnessed it being pulled into the coast by a bulldozer.

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He was mistaken. I look didn’t realize two Russians evading Putin’s draught had successfully landed by his doorstep until his Anchorage-based father called to inquire about news reports. The municipal clerk, I look, who helped after learning who they were, recalled that their clothing was wet and that the first thing we should do was get them somewhere dry and feed them.

They inquired as to whether it would be safe for them to go to Gambell. According to their attorney, Sergey and Maksim’s front doors had been knocked on by Russian officials a week before in the small Siberian settlement of Egvekinot.

That has become routine procedure since Putin issued a nationwide mobilization in September, which was basically a draught order and resulted in the deployment of a large number of inexperienced and poorly-equipped soldiers against Ukraine as well as the forced emigration of others.

The males, both in their 30s, didn’t respond despite knowing what the authorities wanted. The two frequently expressed their disapproval of the government on social media, and McKee claimed that at least one of them was known to be an ally of Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned leader of the Russian opposition. It was not an option to join the invasion.

Instead, Sergey and Maksim escaped in a small fishing boat and cruised south of the hamlet around the northeast peninsula for about 300 miles. When they arrived in Gambell, the 700 residents of the village came together to welcome the tourists and provided them with food and lodging in the public safety building, according to Silk

The Coast Guard flew Sergey and Maksim off the island for processing the following afternoon. The two men have been held in custody at the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma for the past two months while McKee campaigns for their release.

He stated, “It’s a painful and awful procedure,” noting that one of the men had left a family behind. When you travel for such a long time and are dealing with a lot at home, and then you are placed in an environment that is essentially a prison while being informed that it is not a prison, it is not wonderful.

Human rights organizations have chronicled abuse and medical malpractice in immigration detention facilities around the country for years. In a statement sent through email, ICE stated that the organization is dedicated to the well-being of people who are in custody and that it “continuously examines” its detention procedures to make sure they are compassionate.

Russians started emigrating to nearby European nations like Poland and Hungary shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, and in smaller numbers, to the United States, with many crossing the southern border. In the fiscal year 2022, almost 21,000 Russians were processed at the border by American authorities, up from just over 450 in the previous year.

Over 3,800 Russians came in October alone when Sergey and Maksim arrived. U.S. diplomats at embassies across the world and at the southern border are scrambling as a result of the enormous evacuation, as POLITICO reported in May.

Some lawmakers and activists asked President Joe Biden to extend a warm welcome to evacuees from Russia, saying that doing so would send a strong message of American compassion to common Russians and undermine Vladimir Putin’s harsh rule by hastening the exodus of talent from that nation.

A State Department representative said that officials are aware of a large number of Russians departing their country but deferred queries about asylum to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Sergey sent I look an email the day after he checked out of the Gambell, requesting assistance in locating lodging. The city clerk didn’t hear from him again after that. The two will be sponsored by My Home Church in Tacoma, according to Silook’s communication with Pastor Roman Mitin.

We have them remain when there is a place available at the church’s home, making sure they register with ICE. Then, according to Mitin, who explained that he is checking for availability this week, they would receive a driver’s license and all the other documentation they require to begin living in the United States.

Residents in Gambell are on high alert for any additional rebels crossing the strait, but none have yet arrived. However, a life raft’s remains with equipment in it washed ashore on the shore three weeks prior to Sergey and Maksim’s arrival.

I look speculate that it might have been one of the same men making a second attempt, another immigrant trying to travel, or even just seeking boat wreckage. ”We’re looking out toward the ocean every time the seas are calm,” he remarked. “Just to be safe.”

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