I fled military conscription and now fear arrest: Can I get asylum in the U.S.?

Draft evaders' eligibility for asylum depends upon whether the military they sought to avoid service with is considered by the international community to be a persecutor.

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Question

I am a citizen of Albanian nationality in the country that is now called Montenegro. I was conscripted into my country’s military during a terrible war against the Albanian people and did not want to serve. I evaded service by hiding in the mountains until I could leave for the United States. I fear arrest if I return to Montenegro. If I apply for asylum in the U.S., is my claim likely to be successful?

Answer

Punishment for refusal to serve in the military is not, ordinarily, considered persecution. However, punishment for refusing to perform mandatory military service can be persecution if the army is considered to be a “persecutor.” See Matter of A.G., Int. Dec. 3040 (B.I.A. 1987).

If you can prove that the international community considered your government’s military to be a persecutory army you could qualify for asylum. The ethnic cleansing campaign performed by the Serbian army you would have been drafted into was condemned by the international community, so you should have little problem with this point.

Be aware that both the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Montenegrin government granted amnesty for draft evaders and deserters in the late 1990s. You would have to prove why you are not covered by these amnesties and why you fear returning home despite them.

There may be other ways for you to legalize your immigration status in addition to asylum since you are from the former Yugoslavia. Consider consulting with an immigration attorney to explore all options.

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