On October 6 a round-table discussion devoted to the issue of detention of migrants took place at the press-club “Zelyonaya lampa” (Green lamp). The discussion was organised after Russia had paid large compensations to stateless people who experienced inhuman treatment at the detention centre in St Petersburg.
The following people participated in the roundtable discussion:
Aladar Forkos, one of the applicants who filed a claim with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the case “Lakatos and others v. Russia” and received compensations from the Russian government;
Madina Chemdzhemova, representative of the UN High Commissariat on Refugees in the Russian Federation;
Vitaly Ulayev, director of the Detention center for foreign citizens in St Petersburg and the Leningrad region, mayor of the police;
Varvara Mikhaylova, legal consultant of the legal department of the Russian Federal Migration Service in St Petersburg and the Leningrad region;
Olga Tseitlina, lawyer, representing Lakatos, Forkos and Gabor at the ECHR
Andrei Yakimov, an expert from the ADC “Memorial”.
The roundtable-discussion can be watched on-line at the website of the press-club Green lamp
The speech prepared by Andrei Yakimov, ADC “Memorial” expert:
The Anti-Discrimination Centre «Memorial» conducts work to discourage the practice of human rights violations against the ethnic minorities and migrants in the Northwestern Federal District of the Russian Federation. The centre’s employees conduct human rights monitoring and provide legal support and assistance to the victims of discrimination based on their ethnicity, race, nationality and social status.
Our experience in protecting the rights of migrants shows that a comprehensive practice of discrimination against immigrants – foreign citizens and stateless persons – has developed in all spheres of public life in the country, and particularly, in the regions of the Northwestern Federal District. Despite the fact that equal rights are guaranteed for citizens, as well as foreigners and stateless persons, not only in the Constitution of the Russian Federation, but also in international agreements and conventions that are part of the Russia’s legal system, the government authorities often do not follow the principle of the immediate action in human rights and freedom in their daily activities, especially in regard to specific groups of the population that are known to be more vulnerable than the Russian citizens.
The facts about the discrimination of migrants have been repeatedly highlighted in the materials of ADC “Memorial” as well as other human rights organisations, including international ones. Having become victims of dishonest employers, intermediaries, power abuses by the law enforcement officials and attacks by the street nationalists, the migrants, the majority of whom legally arrived on the territory of the Russian Federation, are deprived of their statutes and join the ranks of the “illegals” – “violators of the migration regime.”
Found during the raids and special operations, jointly conducted by the employees of the Federal Migration Service (UFMS) and the Department of Internal Affairs (UVD), non-citizens, who have committed an administrative violation (a violation of the migration regime) are sentenced by the court to fines and administrative expulsion and based on the current legislation, should be placed in special detention centres for foreign nationals and wait for their identity, nationality and deportation to be determined.
In violation of procedural rules, the functions of the specialised detention centres are usually performed by the institutions that are not designed for this purpose: reception centres, temporary detention and even sobering-up stations, as for example, in the Murmansk region. Experts and public commissions authorised in the regions of the Northwestern Federal District have repeatedly drawn the attention of the responsible institutions, emphasizing that conditions of detention for convicted persons in such institutions are not compatible for a long stay of a person. Due to the procedural errors, a foreign citizen or a stateless person may be held in conditions, that represent a direct threat to life and health of a migrant, up to a year. As the experience of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has shown, permanent stay in such circumstances can be equated to torture under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
The horrific realities of the detention of migrants in these centres are well known to the staff and lawyers of ADC “Memorial.” For example, the detention centre at the Municipal Department of Internal Affairs in St. Petersburg on 6 Zakharievskaya Street, until recently, acted as the Detention Centre for Foreign Nationals. Persons sentenced to administrative expulsion are forced to live in a “stone bag” for many months, with poor ventilation, poor nutrition, virtual absence of medical assistance and completely deprived of information, and their neighbours are often on trial for criminal cases. At the same time, immigration officers do not take adequate measures aimed at identifying stateless persons and foreign nationals in order to speed up their removal, and often, migrants are forced to serve the undeserved, severe punishment because of the bureaucratic delays of the competent bodies. Waiting for the deportation does not at all guarantee the solution to the problem of their “illegal status – at the end of the one-year term, such migrants are often simply escorted out of the detention centres straight to the streets, appearing in the same position they were in before, as the violators of the migration regime, and any proceedings against them are terminated. This is what happened to K. Oybek, an applicant who appealed to ADC «Memorial» after his passport had been confiscated by the police. From September of 2008 to September of 2009, Oybek was kept at the detention centre on 6 Zakharievskaya Street, waiting for the administrative expulsion, but due to a misspelling of his patronymic, committed by the government official, his identity was never confirmed by this deadline and Oybek was simply released on the street – in order to be apprehended again in April of 2010, convicted of the same criminal article and placed in the same detention centre. Only with the support of the staff at ADC “Memorial,” who received a certificate of return with Oybek’s name at the Consulate of Uzbekistan in Moscow and passed it on to the Federal Migration Service, his deportation has finally been realised in the summer of 2011.
The impossibility of any operational progress in the implementation of the deportation, together with the intolerable conditions of detention, generate corruption. Zulfiya R., who appealed to the ADC “Memorial,” was forced to pursue negotiations with a certain Elena, who identified herself as a lawyer and an employee of the detention centre. For only 30,000 rubles, Elena offered Zulfiya to help release her sister, who was sentenced to administrative expulsion. According to the information received from the migrants, the release from detention centres can be achieved by paying its employees a certain amount – up to 50,000 rubles. Also, migrants report that they have to pay the guards and officers on duty to allow them to contact their relatives, get a visitation meeting, etc.
Cases from the experiences of ADC “Memorial” and human rights monitoring reports confirm that the detention of foreign citizens and stateless persons sentenced to administrative expulsion is accompanied by gross violations of human rights and degradation of human dignity everywhere, in the most different regions such as Northwestern and other Federal Districts of the Russian Federation. Moreover, the stateless persons with a Soviet passport are in an especially difficult, almost hopeless situation – without having the opportunity to be deported out of the country, they are also deprived of the possibility to appeal their administrative expulsion: similar facts are reported by the human rights representatives of the Arkhangel’sk and Kaliningrad regions. Unable to confirm or change their nationality, they are forced to practically live in detention centres for many years.
However, inspite of the provisions of several international agreements, international law and the Russian legislation, the foreign citizens who are sentenced to deportation are deprived of access to effective judicial protection – their only hope is a petition to the ECHR. This way, a native of Cameroon, Mustafa Alim, won almost 10,000 euros from Russia by a decision of the European Court of Human Rights. The man spent six months in the Krasnodar detention center of migration services, where he claims he was kept in inhumane conditions. Mustafa told the judges of the ECHR about the torture, lack of respect for family life and freedom limitations. He claimed that he was kept in an iron trailer, which was thoroughly frozen on a cold day and became extremely hot on a hot day.
Recently, the situation with the procedure and conditions of detention of foreign nationals and stateless persons was preoccupied with at the highest level — informed the head of the Federal Migration Service Romodanovsky, referring to the the President of the Russian Federation’s order to establish specialised detention centres for foreign nationals with the relevant conditions in each of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation by the beginning of 2012. So far, however, only the St. Petersburg Detention Centre of Foreign Nationals in Krasnoe Selo, which opened in 2009, began its work in the Northwestern Federal District; the situation in other regions did not appear to have changed. For example, currently in the Pskov region, foreign nationals and stateless persons subject to either deportation or administrative expulsion outside the Russian Federation are held in pre-trial detention centres for persons arrested under administrative detention by the Pskov region UVD, not intended for a prolonged stay (more than 10 days). We have encountered the occurence of human rights violations in a specific case dealing with deportation, adopted by the UFMS of the Pskov region in regard to the Rwandan citizen Candida Mukasangi. She encountered difficulties obtaining permission to visit her relative-applicant from the authorities of the detention centre. The administration of the detention centre referred to the absence of their chief, whose personal decision is required to grant visiting rights, and to receive such visits required the help of the staff of ADC «Memorial.» Unfortunately, despite the invitation, representatives of the UFMS of the Pskov region refused to participate in this round table.
Undoubtedly, the special Detention Centres for Foreign Nationals must improve the conditions of expulsion procedures. However, the absence of well-defined rules and conditions of the Detention Centres for Foreign Nationals in the St.Petersburg law draws attention to this aspect. Migrants must be guaranteed the right to respect of their family life, the right of access to information, adequate food, etc. However, until recently, according to the human rights monitoring reports, migrants continued to be detained at the detention centre on Zakharevskaya Street, and to Krasnoe Selo were transferred only those who were close to the realisation of their expulsion – 2-3 weeks prior to deportation from the country. We draw the attention of the Federal Migration Service of St. Petersburg to not allow such practices to occur.
While welcoming the measures taken to improve the situation of foreign citizens and stateless persons sentenced to deportation, we emphasise:
-the need to provide the foreign nationals and stateless persons access to real judicial protection within the framework of the existing Russian and international legislation;
– inadmissability of the conservation of unspecialised Detention Centres for Foreign Nationals in the Northwestern Federal District;
– the need to fight corruption and abuse of power by the employees of MVD and FMS in regard to foreign nationals and stateless persons, awaiting deportation;
-the need to adopt effective measures for the quick establishment of their identity in order to speed up their expulsion;
– the need to improve the procedural rules governing the timing of the expulsion procedure and establishment of identification;
We hope that in the future, UFMS of the Northwestern Federal District will not be guided by the principles of war against illegal migration, but by the adherence of human rights for non-citizens of the Russian Federation, as required by the Constitution and the international obligations of the Russian Federation.