The Minority Forum aims at addressing the interrelatedness and interconnection between the promotion and protection of the human rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities. This year’s Forum is convened on the theme “Statelessness: A Minority Issue”. Statelessness is a human rights issue disproportionately affecting minorities around the world. ADC Memorial has been working on the issue of statelessness for many years now.
The current problem of statelessness in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is deeply rooted in Soviet history. People who did not exchange their soviet passports for identity documents from their new states became “legally invisible” and even face prosecution for being “illegal”.
ADC Memorial has been able to gather information about stateless persons and foreign citizens sent to «specialized institutions for the temporary detention of foreign citizens» by the Russian courts for violating the migration regime». In practice, these people are held in custody, deprived of their freedom, and subjected to the same restrictions as prisoners in jail, even though «placement in special detention centers» is not considered administrative arrest. Stateless persons are sent to special detention institutions for lacking a valid passport or analogous document. The stated purpose for placement in special detention institutions is expulsion, which is patently impossible for stateless, who are not recognized as citizens by their countries of origin. The law allows people to be held in special detention institutions for up to two years. The key problem for stateless persons living in the Russian Federation remains their inability to participate in the legalization process.
Four years ago, this problem had been raised to the European Court for Human Rights in the case of Kim vs. Russia, on which the ECtHR made a ruling instructing the Russian authorities to take general measures to correct the situation of all stateless persons and to abandon their persecution. In May 2017, the Russian Constitutional Court in its ruling in the case of Noé Mskhiladze found the detention of stateless people unconstitutional.
The implementation of the Constitutional Court’s decision in this matter will become a defining moment for the many thousands of people living in the RF who don’t hold citizenship in any country and who were deprived of their freedom for many years.
Russian authorities should accelerate legislative change and adopt an effective procedure for stateless people and detention of stateless people should end. Special attention should be given to vulnerable groups, including ethnic minorities like Roma and Ahiska Turks who suffer from statelessness.