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Interview with Svetlana Gannushkina [Radio Svoboda]

posted 23 Dec 2016, 09:00 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Dec 2016, 09:10 ]
18 December 2016

This is an extract from: 'Ustanovka na vydvorenie,' Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Radio Svoboda (Radio Liberty)]

18 December is International Migrants Day. On 18 December 1990, the UN’s General Assembly adopted a convention on the protection of the rights of migrant workers and their family members. In Russia, according to human rights defenders, the situation concerning incomers’ rights is not improving. Moreover, over recent years the number of migrants deported from the country has increased significantly.

According to statistics from the Federal Migration Service (FMS), in 2015 in Russia there were 117,000 court decisions on deportation. Neither migrant workers nor displaced persons in the country are regarded with favour. Thus over the entire period of Russia’s participation in military conflict in Syria, only two Syrians have received refugee status in Russia, as Chair of the Civil Assistance Committee Svetlana Gannushkina told Radio Svoboda (Radio Liberty) in an interview. In her opinion, the increase in the number of deported migrant workers is due to political factors and is not at all related to an increase in the number of newcomers.

On the contrary, fewer migrant workers are coming to Russia because it’s become harder here to find work, because the dollar rose sharply and, accordingly, the rouble fell. Of course these migrant workers are sending money home, but there’s less and less money. In fact there are now fewer [migrants], not more. It’s true that in recent years [the authorities] have begun to deport people more energetically. This is because the fight with illegal immigration is considered yet again the main thing for the Migration Service to work on. They are deporting not only migrant workers; they are also deporting asylum seekers and those who have not yet managed to submit applications for asylum. A strange new tradition has arisen: people come to apply for asylum, and straightaway they’re seized and dragged to the police department. So it’s a kind of political order.

For what reasons are migrant workers deported—are there actual crimes or thought-up reasons?

It is almost without exception under Article 18.8 of the Code on Administrative Violations, which reads: “Violation of the Procedure for Residence within the Territory of the Russian Federation,” that is to say, lack of a visa, which is entirely normal for a refugee, or lack of registration even with a visa. In general, not all rules are feasible. There’s also Article 18.10, which refers to violations of procedure for employment. This article is also used quite frequently. For example, we’ve encountered absolutely unbelievable things. People have been literally seized at work. It’s discovered that they don’t have their documents with them, and they’re dragged off to court. The court then makes the decision about deportation. We’ve encountered situations when a wife who’s a Russian citizen (and the idea of deportation is supposed to be off the table if one has a Russian wife and children) brings all the documents to the court, and they’re all in order. Just that the person didn’t have them in the pocket of his work uniform. But a practice has developed by which the migrant should have all documents on hand at the moment of verification. You’ve gone to work repairing the plaster on the outside of a home, and you’re supposed to have all your documents in your pocket while doing that? And what about in the bathhouse? In all likelihood you’re supposed to have them in there too.

Is this in accordance with the law in general?

You must understand, it’s a practice they have developed. If Moscow City Court says this is the case, then this means they probably consider it a regulation. The law says that a person should keep some documents. For example, the registration card. They should keep it, but that doesn’t mean they should carry it on them. We don’t even have a rule that a person should have a form of identification on them when walking around outside, as some countries do. And what happens? I went outside, didn’t take my passport with me. They check my documents. I don’t have my passport. And on top of that I’m not a Russian citizen? Of course it’s illegal. [Read more in Russian

Translated by Caroline Elkin