Fact-finding mission: Measures by authorities directed at Jehovah’s Witnesses continue in Russia

23.4.2019 11.53
Press release

Measures taken by authorities against Jehovah’s Witnesses are reported to have continued in Russia in 2019, reveals a recent country information report published by the Finnish Immigration Service. The measures include house searches conducted in the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses and arrests around the country.

The report published today deals with the situation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. Researchers from the Country Information service went on a fact-finding mission to Moscow in November-December. In Russia, the researchers interviewed non-governmental organisations, experts, researchers, international organisations and representatives of authorities.

The Finnish Immigration Service office conducts fact-finding missions particularly to countries from which asylum seekers come to Finland. Last year, a total of 490 asylum seekers came to Finland from Russia. According to the estimation of the Finnish Immigration Service, more than 100 of them were Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are no exact statistics available because the Immigration Service does not record grounds for asylum on this level.

The situation of an asylum seeker is always assessed individually, and the asylum seeker’s statements are compared to available country information. A separate assessment is made for each individual person on whether that person is under risk of persecution or serious harm if they return to their home country. Jehovah’s Witnesses have received both positive and negative decisions.

Measures based on classification as an extremist group

In April 2017, the Supreme Court of Russia classified the Jehovah’s Witness organisation as an extremist group and official activities were banned. After the decision, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia have faced seizures of property, house searches, arrests, pretrial detention, house arrests and travel bans. In early 2019, one Jehovah’s Witness was sentenced to imprisonment for organising activities of an organisation classified as extremist.

After the court decision, members of the community have continued their activities but many people are afraid of facing legal action. Proselytising and prayer are currently practiced within the family and in private residences because congregations could be considered to be against the law.

Emigration likely to continue in the near future

There are approximately 170,000 - 175,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses living in Russia. After the spring of 2017, about 5,000 members of the community left the country. The measures taken by authorities against Jehovah’s Witnesses are estimated to continue, which will also lead to emigration in the near future.

Fact-finding missions are a part of the European Union’s FAKTA project, which has received funding from the EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). Reports on the situation in the North Caucasus, the criminal process in Russia and application of legislation against extremism will be published later in the spring.

The Russia report can be read on our website (available only in Finnish). 

Information on the situation in countries based on research for decision-making

  • The Country Information Service collects country of origin information (COI), which is used to support decision-making in connection with applications for international protection in particular.
  • In addition to the fact-finding missions, many other methods are used to find information on the situation in the countries. Other sources include the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), research institutions, and the country information services of other countries.
  • Up-to-date country information is always used in the decision-making of the Finnish Immigration Service. The researchers do not participate in decision-making or drawing up country-based policies.

Further information for the media

  • Country information concerning Russia: Mari Kyrönlahti, Researcher, email: [email protected], tel. +358 (0)295 430 431
  • The asylum process and decision-making: Head of Section Anu Karppi, tel. +358 (0)29 543 0431, e-mail [email protected]

Press release