Rejected fellow-Russians

Millions of Russian people cannot obtain Russian citizenship because of the complicated procedure introduced by the laws “On citizenship” and “On legal status of foreign citizens” in 2002.
This is the opinion of the chairman of the international movement “Forum of migrant organizations” Lidia Grafova.

Reporter. Recently, a task force for preparing an “immigration amnesty” has been established (the group is affiliated with the Representative on Human Rights in Russia Vladimir Lukin). What is the mission of the group?

Lidia Grafova. The Federal Immigration Service decided to establish the task force, as when a country has many illegal immigrants and cоmes to understanding that the situation cannot be corrected in a traditional way, it conducts “immigration amnesties”. This was in the USA and in a number of European countries.

Legalization is the best way fighting illegal migration. Russia needs this procedure much. Many Western countries started making their laws on immigration stricter, and Russia was quick to follow them. However, the situation in Russia is different from these countries as Russia has had many people arrived after the USSR collapse. In fact, these people are repatriates, but they were made “foreigners” like the refugees from the countries located far from Russia. This was absolutely unfair and humiliating for these people. In the last two years, people stopped returning to Russia for permanent residence.

Reporter. Meanwhile, the politicians say that Russia needs its fellow countrymen.

Lidia Grafova. An immigration amnesty will assist in solving this problem. Russia, having the biggest territory in the world, in going through a demographic crisis by losing one million people per year. According to the prognoses, there will be only 93 people in Russia by 2050 (today we have 143 million people). Meanwhile, the quick adopting of the two above mentioned laws caused many problems for the country and put people in a difficult situation.

The situation is paradoxical. The legislation was made tougher to put a barrier against terrorists and criminals penetrating to Russia. Migration was considered the threat to the state’s security. However, the criminals enter Russia quite easy – they give bribes and purchase citizenship or residence permit, while law-abiding citizens suffer from the bans imposed by the new laws.

Reporter. How to conduct the amnesty technically? Make the amendments to the laws “On citizenship” and “On legal status of foreign citizens”?

Lidia Grafova. In the beginning of 2003, President Putin said in his address to the Parliament that many our fellow-countrymen had become “illegal immigrants”. The President stated that an efficient policy on immigration should be elaborated, that imposing bans and obstacles is not productive. However, only in the end of 2004 some amendments were made to the law “Оn citizenship”. The amendments could have become the ground for immigration amnesty, but the officials added a “minor” detail in them: they linked directly person’s obtaining citizenship and his/her registration in the place of residence – the propiska which had been terminated by the Constitution long ago. How can a homeless immigrant have registration? This made many immigrants illegal. Today many “illegal immigrants” go to courts to prove that they have resided in Russia many years. However, even court verdicts cannot replace propiska, and the passport and visa services do not accept documents for citizenship even with favorable court verdicts.

The immigrants have been in critical situation. Only 1/10 of them work in Russia on a legal basis, the others work in shadow business. They would like to become legitimate and pay taxes to the state budget, but their employers and the police benefit from having them as social outcasts with no rights. Meanwhile, the state loses billions of roubles every year.

Reporter. Which of our fellow-countrymen becomes gets illegal status?

Lidia Grafova. The people who came to Russia from the former republics of the USSR, 3 and more years ago on a Soviet passport, when no visa was required. They believed they were Russian citizens. 1.5 millions applications for citizenship have been submitted to the country’s passport and visa services. One of the officials said that considering all the applications will take 6 years. Imagine – a person will live 6 years with no passport, will not be able to find a job in a legal way or go to the doctor for free. The applications are being considered so long because the bureaucrats see a potential criminal in every person. Many papers should be collected for applying for citizenship, even 90-old people must undergo medical analyses for AIDS, syphilis, leper... If a person did not bring the official paper that he/she had refused from the citizenship of the country- the former Soviet republic, the authorities offer him to go to the country he left a while ago, for getting this paper…

Reporter. The researches say that in 2 years both Russia and overall Europe will have shortage of workforce, and will start looking for immigrants. Is this so?

Lidia Grafova. Russia needs immigrants – permanent residents. In the developed countries, before toughening the laws on immigration, they give some time to the illegal immigrants to become legal. In Russia, immigration amnesty could become a breakthrough, and our fellow-countrymen could continue returning to Russia.

Iolanta Kachaeva

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Author`s name Evgeniya Petrova