United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1997 - Belarus, 1 January 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8bb8.html [accessed 29 September 2016]
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Belarusan authorities have registered more than 30,000 migrants from former Soviet republics, with 1,537 new arrivals recorded in 1996. Of these, 311 were from the war-torn republics of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Tajikistan. UNHCR has registered about 5,500 asylum seekers in Belarus from outside the former Soviet Union. More than 90 percent were from Afghanistan. The rest came from Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Liberia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Kashmir (India/Pakistan). No one has been granted asylum in Belarus to date. Belarusan government figures on Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) asylum seekers might significantly understate the true number of applicants, as suggested by discrepancies in the numbers reported by locality. For example, in 1995, 825 CIS asylum seekers were registered in the Vitebsk region, while only 27 were registered in Minsk during the same period even though Minsk is where most new asylum seekers arrive and live. Belarus has not acceded to the UN Refugee Convention or Protocol. A law, "On Refugees," passed in February 1995, would give the State Migration Service responsibility for making determinations on asylum applications. This would be an important step in moving toward compliance with the Refugee Convention and Protocol. However, at the end of 1996, lack of funding and the incomplete formation of the State Migration Service impeded implementation. Another proposed law on immigration, developed in consultation with UNHCR, had not moved beyond the draft law stage and was not on the agenda of Belarus's new parliament at the end of 1996. Although the government has indicated its intention to set up temporary camps for asylum seekers in order to implement its refugee law, by year's end, no accommodations existed. UNHCR provided financial assistance through the Belarusan Red Cross to a small number of people, approximately 60 families a month, determined to be the most vulnerable. Political Developments President Alexander Lukashenko continued to consolidate his power in 1996, dissolving the parliament after a constitutional referendum regarded by most observers as illegitimate and introducing regulations requiring Belarusans to apply for permission before traveling abroad. In a letter to the Belarusan ambassador to the United States, USCR pointed out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits such restrictions. The political situation has brought into question Belarus's continued observer status in the Council of Europe. It has also sparked concern in neighboring countries that the number of Belarusans crossing the border in search of asylum might increase. In December, ten Belarusan opposition members sought asylum in Poland. Latvian radio reported that Latvian border guards were increasing patrols in anticipation of a possible influx. The crackdown also caused two opposition leaders to seek, and receive, asylum in the United States.