Immigrant children’s rights violated

Immigration rules in Russia became stricter recently, especially in the four regions of Russian Federation that receive the greatest number of immigrant workers (Moscow, Moscow region, Saint Petersburg, Leningrad region). But the children of immigrants had found themselves in the most vulnerable position even before the rules became stricter: the period of their legal stay in Russia is limited to 90 days only and is not in any way connected to the period of their parents’ stay in the country. Thus, if parents of a child managed to get a 1-year work permit in Russia (up to 3 years for citizens of Tadzhikistan), they still have to take their children outside of Russia every three months in order to get a new immigration card for them.

Obviously, working parents in most cases have neither the means, nor the time for this unreasonable travel. But the schools in Russia strictly follow the situation with the children’s immigration documents, because they in turn are being controlled by the higher authorities and the procurator’s office, and as a result immigrant children become a “problem” for the school. As a result of that immigrant children often lose their legal status in Russia, stop attending schools and are excluded from the educational and integration process.

These difficulties also concern the immigrant children, who get professional education and training in Russia. Foreign students of Russian colleges can legally stay in Russia for the same 90 days, but not – as logic supposes – for the whole period of their education. Samikzhon Samikov, a Kirgiz citizen and a student of Saint Petersburg lyceum of technology and design, also faced this problem. Samikzhon is an ethnic Uzbek, he was born in Osh, was one of the best students in his school there, did wrestling and dreamt of becoming a champion wrestler, attended drawing courses, dreamt of earning enough money to buy a big and beautiful house. Unfortunately for him and many others in 2010 there were inter-ethnic clashes in Osh, followed by pogroms and murders of Uzbeks. In this troubled time Samikzhon was alone: his mother went to Russia to work. Samikzhon was first transferred to a different school, closer to his home in Osh, and then he went to Russia to join his mother.

In Saint Petersburg he entered Professional lyceum of technology and design in order to become a salesperson. The first year of studies was difficult, as some of his teachers and co-students were prejudiced against him. At the same time he faced problems with professional educational practice, which was required in order to get a diploma. Even though his teachers Mrs. Tarakanova and Kozhina were very helpful, they were powerless to change existing regulations: since spring 2007 non-citizens of Russian Federation are banned from working in trade and sales. It was also impossible to get a work permit for Samikzhon as he was underage. Fortunately for him, he was allowed to have professional practice in his own lyceum. Relations with his classmates also improved. Now Samikzhon takes part in various educational and sportive events.

Same as other immigrant children, Samikzhon Samikov was required to leave Russia every three months in order to keep his legal status. Last summer he found himself in trouble on the border between Russia and Kazakhstan when it turned out very unexpectedly that he had been banned from entering Russia until 2016. Because the databases of the Federal Migration Service (FMS) and the border guards were not synchronized, it was very difficult to learn who made a ban and who could lift it. Only due to the assistance of the human rights defenders of Chelyabinsk and Volgograd regions it became possible to learn that the ban was introduced back in March 2013 by the FMS department of Volgograd region (the place of his previous border crossing) based on some lists received from the FMS. In accordance with the law № 321FZ dated December 30, 2012 a ban on entry to the country for three years was introduced for any violations of the period of stay and departure from Russia. Samikzhon found himself in a very difficult situation as he couldn’t enter Russia where his mother was and where he studied, and it was dangerous for him as an ethnic Uzbek to go to his native Kirgizstan. The ban on entry to Russia for an underage person is a direct consequence of the deficiencies of Russian legislation, which prevents foreign minors from getting registration in Russia for the same period of time as their parents. ADC “Memorial” has raised this issue on numerous occasions, including a session of the UN Committee on the rights of the child.

Joint efforts by the human rights defenders from Russia, Kazakhstan and Kirgizstan helped to discover the circumstances of inclusion of Samikzhon Samikov’s name into the ban list of FMS. He was also assisted for the period of time that he was forced to stay outside of Russia. Boris Altshuller, member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, sent a letter to the head of FMS K.Romodanovsky asking to consider the case of Samikzhon Samikov and lift the ban on his entry to Russia, as well as “to consider the general issue of possible softening of Russian Federation’s legal requirements regarding the period of stay of underage children of labor immigrants in Russia, clarifying that this period of stay is defined by the period of legal stay of their parents in the Russian Federation, and equating child-parent relations to the category of “special and inescapable conditions” (federal law № 114FZ, Article 26, Section 8)”. He received a response to this letter that stated that the ban on Samikov’s entry to Russia was lifted and corresponding instructions were sent out to regional departments of FMS. In spite of the fact that the procedure still remained complicated and required Mr.Altshuller’s further involvement, as a result of that the matter was settled and Samikov could re-enter Russia and continued his studies, although after a break.

This case could become a very important milestone for implementation of the rights of other immigrant children. We hope that successful end of the case of Samikzhon Samikov will help change the general situation of immigrant children in Russia for the better.

by Yekaterina Nazarshoyeva, Mairam Samikova