Joint statement by ADC “Memorial” and Bir Duyno Kyrgyzstan: Host countries are responsible for lives of migrant children

On December 18, 1990 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and since then this day is celebrated worldwide as the International Migrants Day.

Russian Federation annually hosts millions of migrants and ranks among several top countries in the world by number of migrant workers living permanently in the country. Many of these people come with their families and children. Although the Russian Federation has not yet ratified the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (in spite of the obvious need to do so and the respective recommendations adopted by the UN Committees on the Rights of the Child, on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights), responsibility for the life, health and education of all children residing in the country lies with the authorities of that country. Health and safety should be provided to all children, regardless of their nationality, possession of insurance policies or lack thereof, their place of birth and country of origin, as it is required by the international legal regulations recognized by the Russian Federation (primarily the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child). This is also guaranteed by Article 38 of the Russian Constitution, which reads that “motherhood, childhood and family are protected by the state”.

Unfortunately, the real situation is often in sharp contrast to the formally guaranteed rights of the child in the Russian Federation, especially when it comes to children without Russian citizenship. Two months ago in St. Petersburg a five-month baby died after being taken away from his parents during an arrest of his mother, a migrant from Tajikistan, which had been carried out by the immigration authorities (police and the Federal Migration Service, FMS). What was the immediate cause of the child’s death is now being investigated, but it is already clear that nobody had the right to separate the child from his mother, to take him away to the police station and then put him into the hospital.

Doctors of children’s hospitals in Russia only provide migrant children with “extreme emergency assistance” free of charge, while they are forced to demand payment or ask for supplementary health insurance policy from migrant children, which the latter often do not have. How exactly does a doctor during the first examination of a child can assess whether he deals with an extreme medical emergency or simply an urgent case? What risks do children face if their parents are not able to pay in case of “non-life-threatening” state of a child (which in fact it can be dramatically “threatening” or can endanger if not life, but future healthy development of a child)? When dealing with Russian nationals, doctors often secure themselves against any possible risks by offering free admission to hospitals even to those children, who are not seriously ill, but non-Russian children, on the contrary, run the risk of not being recognized to be dangerously ill by doctors because hospitals are paid for their treatment from the state budget and Russian authorities do not want doctors to “use state funds inappropriately”. Children face additional risks to their life and health if their migrant parents are afraid to go to doctors, believing that they could be accused of violations of Russian migration regulations (based on the lack of medical insurance policy or improper registration of the place of residence) and then expelled from the country after spending time in detention centers for foreign nationals and being forcibly separated from their children. The death of a little migrant child, who had been taken away from his mother, only added to these fears.

It is necessary to protect the life and health of all children in the Russian Federation by making healthcare accessible and secure for all, by making it anonymous if necessary, in order for children to live and grow healthy and not to die because of fear of “violating immigration regulations”.