Alaska asylum seekers are Indigenous Siberians from Russia and the Yukon, and some were born in North America, according to a study published Thursday.
Many of the people who are seeking refuge in Alaska have been victims of violence.
The majority of this population came to Alaska in the late 1980s, when a surge in the number of refugees from Siberia followed the breakup of the Soviet Union. They were granted asylum at the end of the decade, which in many cases meant they were granted temporary resident status.
The study, compiled from interviews with 11 individuals who were granted asylum in the state, found that most had no criminal record and had no connection to Canada.
The majority of the asylum seekers were women who were married to men in Russia. Their children were also American-born. The study noted that Alaska has the highest proportion of Russian immigrants in Russia, so these women could have gone there for work before arriving in the US.
The study found that the majority of people who sought asylum in Alaska were between the age of 22 and 24 and were single at the time of their application. Those interviewed were given a range of reasons for seeking asylum, however most cited a fear for their safety or their ability to care for their children.
“The purpose of this study was not to identify the people who were most likely to succeed,” researcher Joseph Meehan told the Washington Post via email last year.
But Meehan believes that the study, which is limited to the 11 cases collected, provides a baseline for other asylum seekers in Alaska.
“The important takeaway is that people are fleeing violence in Russia, and they are seeking refuge and have a legitimate fear of returning there,” he told the Seattle Times.
Meehan said that the interviews focused specifically on violence against women in the Arctic and Alaska, and that more research should be done on this specific issue.
“One of the things that would be interesting to look at is the types of crimes that led to a woman wanting to leave her village and now wanting to find a safe place to live,” he said.
But he emphasized that it’s important to look at what motivates refugees to leave their villages and seek asylum in other countries.
The study suggests that “there is a need for greater understanding of how and why they leave,” he said. “I think the research should be focused