Asylum is probably one of those terms that people here in Florida have heard when referring to people trying to enter the United States after fleeing oppression from their home country. While this may be the norm in most cases, one asylum case currently playing out in Russia right now is changing that.
Some of our readers may be following the story of Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who has been accused of espionage by the United States government for allegedly leaking information about the government's surveillance programs. Fearing the legal ramifications, Snowden fled to Hong Kong then to Russia where he has been stuck since June 23.
For those who have not been following the story, Snowden is unable to leave Russia's international airport because the United States government has revoked his visa. This not only prevents him from leaving the airport and entering Russia but prevents him from travelling to other countries that have accepted his pleas for asylum. So far, Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua say that they would offer him asylum though some sources indicate that he would need to be present in the country in order to apply.
According to sources this week, Snowden has reached the conclusion that in order to seek full asylum in any of the Latin American countries, he must first apply for temporary asylum in Russia. A lawyer with links to the Kremlin explained recently that Snowden has sought this opportunity for protection and is helping the man with this process.
It's important for our readers to remember that charges of espionage are incredibly serious and may not qualify as reasons for applying for asylum in the United States. In Snowden's case, the fact that he feared for his life if he returned home may be the reason other countries would allow him asylum, which is a similar practice done here in the U.S.
Source: BBC News, "Fugitive Edward Snowden applies for asylum in Russia," July 16, 2013