HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — A group of Russian refugees is planning an indefinite hunger strike beginning March 1 to highlight restrictions on their ability to travel from Guam to other U.S. destinations as well as delays in the processing of their asylum claims.

Russians

A group of Russians seeking asylum on Guam protested on Nov. 5, 2020 in Hagåtña.

Photo by Norman M. Taruc/The Guam Daily Post

"We demand: Stop violating the right of refugees to free movement within the country, guaranteed to us by Article 26, Article 6 of the International Convention on the status of refugees, and the protocol ratified by the United States," a statement reads on the website guamrefugees.com

Some of them have waited about a year and a half for a decision on their asylum claims filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to the group's website.

The situation is dire, as one asylum seeker has committed suicide, and others are falling into depression, while others still are unable to travel off island to get medical attention, according to the group, whose members have previously held protests.

"In this situation, we are forced to defend our rights by holding rallies. We have to admit that the ongoing series of rallies haven't actually led to any resolution, so we are ready to go on the hunger strike in order to stop the violation of our rights," the website states.

The asylum seekers have appealed to numerous federal and local authorities without success, according to the group.

The group has made an appeal to the White House.

"Please help. Refugees shouldn't die on American land. We believe that the United States is a country where human rights are not an empty phrase. Especially the basic human right to freedom," a woman stated in a video on the group's website.

Krystal Paco-San Agustin, the communications director for governor’s office, said the  administration will reach out to Delegate Michael San Nicolas and other federal partners "to get them whatever help we can."

Some of the asylum applicants from Russia have been unable to travel from Guam to other U.S. points of entry because they came in as tourists under a visa waiver program that has since been rescinded — under the Trump administration — following a high rate of asylum seekers from Russia who came to Guam as tourists.

As of May 2018, there were about 150 Russians seeking asylum on Guam, The Guam Daily Post files show.

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