On September 3, 2019, the St. Petersburg city court finally declared unlawful the decision of the Chief Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region and the Chief Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation for Moscow and the Moscow region regarding a ban on entry into the territory of the Russian Federation, as well as the refusal to issue a residence permit and cancellation of the previously issued temporary residence permits for Irina B., a citizen of Moldova.
Back in 2002, when Irina was 9 years old, she and her mother had moved from Moldova to St. Petersburg, where Irina grew up, graduated from high school and college, and later married a citizen of the Russian Federation, with whom she now raises a child. Before January 2016, she had travelled home only once: when she had married and decided to visit her father with her husband. When crossing the border, she was sure that her presence on the territory of Russia was perfectly legal. She had no doubts about this even after returning to Russia, where already in March 2016, by the decision of the Federal Migration Service for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region, she received a temporary residence permit. However, a few months later, Irina found out that, because of her long stay in the Russian Federation without exit from the country, the Department of the Federal Migration Service (FMS) for Moscow region had forbade her to enter Russia for a period of 10 years, and the Department of the FMS for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region had canceled her previously issued temporary residence permit. At the same time, the employees of the migration service refused to explain why she had not received any notice about the alleged offense at the time she had received the permit for temporary residence. It seemed absurd that Irina, who had been living in Russia since her childhood, had a family and a child here, that she was then barred from entering the country for 10 years, thereby separating her from her family and close relatives.
In order to assert her right to stay with her family in Russia, Irina filed a legal complaint about the decision of the Federal Migration Service with the Smolny district court of St. Petersburg, where her interests were represented by Sergey Mikhaylichenko and Olga Tseytlina with the support of the Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial. On February 26, 2019, the ban on her entry into the Russian Federation was lifted by a court decision, and the Chief Directorate of Internal Affairs of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation was required to return Irina’s temporary residence permit and accept her documents for a permanent residence permit. Nevertheless, the migration service insisted that Irina had committed an offense, which meant that the decision regarding a ban on her entry into the country and deprivation her of a temporary residence permit were both legal.
In March 2019, representatives of the Chief Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region appealed to the St. Petersburg city court with a request to reverse the decision of the Smolny district court of St. Petersburg. However, the court again sided with Irina, explaining in its ruling that the respective bodies of authority were obliged to avoid formal approach when considering issues related to ban on entry into the Russian Federation and had to take into account the commensurability of the punishment with the offense committed.
Thanks to the work of human rights defenders and lawyers, the case of Irina B. ended successfully. One cannot but welcome the fact that Russian courts increasingly pay attention to the importance of family integrity and immunity. However, the practice of Russian migration authorities does not change: despite the instructions of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, the former continue to make decisions on the ban on entry of foreign citizens whose families and children live in Russia and have citizenship of the Russian Federation. At the same time, minor offenses should not be considered the basis for the expulsion and prohibition of entry for foreign citizens, while state bodies should abandon the formal approach in making decisions on which the destinies of people, and especially children, depend.