Hundreds of refugees from the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya this week mounted a small, and perhaps fruitless, protest on the Polish border with Belarus, seeking political asylum in the European Union from persecution at home.
The demonstration, a sit-in in the transit zone between the Belarusian and Polish borders, was an attempt to return media attention to asylum seekers from Chechnya and elsewhere in the North Caucasus, a problem which in recent years has been dwarfed by the tides of refugees traveling to Europe from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
As recently as 2013, the second largest number of applications for political asylum in Europe came from Russia, primarily from residents of the North Caucasus region complaining of rights abuses (40,000 Russian citizens sought asylum that year). And according to a report this week from Human Rights Watch, violations like punitive house-burnings and forced disappearances in Chechnya persist against critics of the regime.
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