Seminars on minorities’ rights

In June 2011, the Anti-Discrimination Centre „Memorial“ has organised two meetings „Migrants: problems, rights and opportunities for advocacy“ and „Ways of cooperating against hate crimes.“ Both of them were devoted to the issue of opportunities for advocacy for migrants‘ rights in Saint Petersburg.

Discriminatory practices and unequal rights lead to exclusion and isolation of discriminated minorities, as well as to deformation of social relations among the dominating majority. To overcome discrimination, those who experience injustice towards themselves and public activists should cooperate in fighting against racism.

Migrants from Africa and Central Asia, participating together in the meeting, were surprised to hear each other‘s stories. A different social background does not allow them to meet in everyday life. Problems that recently only migrants from Africa faced, such as racist murders, xenophobia and prejudices of the state institutions, are now a common part of life of migrants from Central Asia. During the discussion, more migrants from Central Asia appeared to be worried about the violations of their labour rights than xenophobia. Many consider attacks against them to be a natural part of their lives. They do not complain about them and even avoid mentioning them at all. According to a psychologist – expert of ADC “Memorial,”  „keeping problems inside is dangerous. They should be solved, as well as discussed at such meetings.“ Human rights activists, anti-fascists, representatives of ethnic minorities and migrants shall meet, discuss and solve the problems of xenophobia and social discrimination together.

The activities of out-sourcing companies caused intensive discussions. The migrants had to answer a very difficult question: whether they should use the services of these companies while receiving a work permit or registration. For many migrants, such companies provide the only opportunity to become legal residents, even if forced to work illegally for 12-14 hours a day and accept some risks of cheating or faking the documents. Large Russian companies and state institutions usually hire migrants with no registrations, work permits or guaranteed wages via such companies. It allows them to stay „clear“ from legal prosecutions and social responsibilities for foreign workers. Cooperation in such cases is the only thing to rely on. Unfortunately, the employers often avoid the punishments, since the migrants themselves are less frequently going to the law-enforcement agencies. An important part of this fight for your rights is a legal reaction and prosecution of the mediators.

Anastasiya Nekozakova

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