Stricter immigration rules hurt children the most

The right to education is one of the most important social and cultural human rights, while education itself is a necessary condition for children’s socialization.  As a participant of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which protects all children on the territory of the state,   Russian Federation is obliged to fight against any restrictions on access to education based on ethnic or any other motives, but as the recent changes in legislation demonstrate, it establishes new, additional restrictions instead.

Staring January 1, 2o014, changes into the law “On legal status of foreign citizens on the territory of the Russian Federation” came into force, which limited the period of temporary stay in Russia for foreign citizens to 90 days instead of 180 days. Before these changes were introduced, it had been completely legal for foreign nationals to leave Russia after a period of 90 days and then immediately re-enter the country for another 90 days. By introducing new rules our legislators claim to fight “illegal immigration”, or, more precisely, those who do not receive work permits or patents, which authorize them to stay legally in Russia for 1 year (or even up to 3 years in case of citizens of Tadzhikistan).

Now imagine a family of labor immigrants with children. Before the above mentioned legal changes were introduced it had been already hard enough for them: in order for children to attend classes in Russian schools, their parents had been obliged to take children outside of Russia every three months in order to get new immigration cards and registration for 3 more months (if this is not done, the schools which are strictly monitored by the procurators and the Federal Migration Service are obliged to expel children fearing prosecution by the authorities).

As a result of that, a great number of children from immigrant families found themselves outside of Russian schools: their parents who work day and night had neither the means, nor the time and energy for meaningless crossing of the border there and back. However, now in order to preserve the legal status of their children in Russia, the parents will have not only to take their children outside of Russia every 3 months, but also keep them somewhere for another 3 months in order to keep up with the new regulation of “90 days out of 180 days possible”.

And the question remains: what about the right to education and family life, which are guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child to all children on the territory of the Russian Federation regardless of their citizenship? Even if we assume that a child will be able to return to the same school in 3 months time, he or she would still miss the school program, which was studied by classmates. Re-entering the school after 3 months he or she would only be able to catch up with the school program they missed. Besides poorer school marks and lower education level such forced absence from school is likely to result in poorer relations with classmates and the general level of child’s development. This is absolutely unacceptable, regardless of the citizenship of the child, because the right to education is a human right, not a right reserved for Russian citizens only.

It is very often that we can hear from both “common people” and state officials: “Why do these people come here with their children? It is their conscious choice to become labor migrants and they can leave their children with grandmothers back in Uzbekistan”. The only thing we can propose to these people is to try and fit this situation with migration (or simply a long period of leave) onto themselves. Wouldn’t these state officials take their families with them in case they go for a considerable period to study or work abroad, let’s say, a year or half a year in Paris or London? Of course, they would. But they somehow refuse the same right for other people’s children – the right to grow in families, to stay with their parents, to develop, to attend school.

Following the consideration of the official reports of the Russian Federation by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (January 23-24, 2014), it was recommended that Russia abolishes the legal norms discriminating children, including the rule of “90 days”. These recommendation of the UN Committee are very important to us, because the newly introduced stricter immigration rules concern thousands of children, whose rights should not be violated.

by Sergey Mikheyev

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