Deportation instead of investigation: courts ruled to deport victims of human trafficking

Veronica M., a citizen of Cameroun, was to be released on October 4, 2013 after three years she had spent in the Center for detention of foreign nationals in Saint Petersburg, but she ended up in the same detention center again. Veronica had been detained there without interruption since September 9, 2010 while awaiting court ruling on deportation, but in fact no actions were taken in order to deport her. In spite of the fact that in 2010-2011 maximal period of detention in the center had been set to be not more than one year, the courts and the bodies of the Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS) carried out illegal practice of “extension” of the period of detention: on the same day the court ruled to end the period of court enforcement proceedings due to expiration of the period of prescription, then ruled Veronica guilty again on the grounds of violation of the period of stay in Russia, sentenced her to deportation and ruled to place her in detention center ahead of that. She hasn’t spent a single day outside of detention center and thus could not have violated the period of stay in Russia again, because she was continuously held in detention under full observation of the authorities. Back at the time of her first detention in September 2010 Veronica claimed that she was a victim of sexual slavery, but instead of investigating this claim, she was placed in detention in complete violation of all existing regulations and periods of detention.

In April 2012 Vyborg district court of Saint Petersburg made another ruling concerning deportation of Veronica and her placement in detention. Court ruling reads that Veronica was discovered at Smolyachkova street, 15 (FMS office), while in fact at that time she was held in the Center for detention of foreign nationals, where she had been placed by the same judge a year earlier. At this point the lawyers of ADC “Memorial” started to work on this case and made an appeal against unprecedented long detention of the claimant to the court and the procurator’s office.

Finally, the case of Veronica M. was considered by the Saint Petersburg city court in October 2013. During the hearings the fact of violations by the Vyborgsky district court was discovered: the identity of the Cameroun national, Veronica M., had not been checked and proven and participation of a translator in the court hearings had not been properly registered. After that the earlier ruling of the court against Veronica M. was overruled and the case of violation of immigration rules was abandoned due to expiration of period of prescription.

But this was not the end of troubles for Veronica. Following the court proceedings, no contact could be made with her. The lawyers suspected that Veronica was “freed” from the Center for detention of foreign nationals and deported to Cameroun. As the bailiffs had told the court, since 2010 the state budget supposedly spent Rb300,000 on procedures for her deportation and that she supposedly had been returned to Russia from the transit zone of Turkey several times in spite of the fact that in reality she had never left the detention center. (However, there was an obvious need to explain the disappearance of money allocated for her deportation.) Later it turned out that Veronica was placed into detention center again and she remains there until now.

A similar story happened to another woman, I., a Nigerian citizen, who claimed that she, too, was a victim of sexual exploitation. In March 2013 Kuybyshev district court of Saint Petersburg ruled that she should pay Rb2,000 for violation of Article 18.8 of the Code on administrative violations, should be deported and should be placed in detention center ahead of deportation. He court ruling read that I. worked as a prostitute and was discovered at Krylova street, 3 (which is FMS chapter for the Central district of Saint Petersburg), where I. came out on her own will in order to leave Russia after losing her passport (her passport was presumably held by the employer). But instead of investigating the claim of sexual slavery, the court ruled to place her in detention center, without giving motivation for this decision or specifying the period for which she was to be held in detention. The lawyers of ADC “Memorial” presented an appeal against this court decision to the Saint Petersburg city court, asking to overrule the sentence of deportation and placement in detention.

As for the data on investigations of cases of human trafficking in Russia, it is very difficult to find any detailed information on this. Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation reported on its website that in 2010 a total of 53 criminal investigations were opened on charges of human trafficking (Article 127.1 of the Penal Code) and use of slave labor (Article 127.2). Out of these just 12 cases were later sent to court (involving 23 persons). In 2011 there were 20 such criminal cases opened, 18 cases involving 23 persons were sent to court. In 2012 there were 37 criminal cases opened, 19 were sent to court involving 35 persons.

In June 2013 US Department of State published its annual report “Trafficking in Persons Report 2013”, which criticized Russia’s approach to the victims of human trafficking: “Majority of foreign victims of human trafficking in Russia remain undefended. There are reports that Russian authorities charge the supposed victims of slave trade with illegal stay on the territory of the country without proper documents and deport these people without providing them assistance”.

  by Anastasia Nekozakova