You can leave without going to court

You can leave without going to court

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has sent to the government a draft federal law that would strengthen control over the entry, exit and stay of foreigners on Russian territory, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Irina Volk said on Monday. One of the innovations of the project compared to the 2021 version was the reduction of the period of temporary stay of foreigners to 90 days during the calendar year instead of the current 6 months. Proposals also include the creation of a “single document” and a “digital profile” of a migrant, mandatory fingerprinting and the signing of a “loyalty agreement,” as well as the possibility of deportation without a court decision in case of a threat to “constitutionally protected values.” According to Kommersant, the government has no conceptual objections to the proposals of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but the departments involved in the approval have a number of technical and legal comments.

Official representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia Irina Volk reported that the department has completed work on the draft federal law “On the conditions of entry into and exit from the Russian Federation of foreign citizens and stateless persons, as well as the conditions of their stay and residence on the territory of the Russian Federation” and sent it for consideration to government.

As Kommersant previously reported, the concept of the bill appeared back in September 2020, and its first version was published on in July 2021. Then, among the main changes was a “single document” for migrant workers in the form of an ID card with electronic media. Foreigners could receive a card only after undergoing fingerprinting, a medical examination (with certificates of absence of drug addiction and HIV), purchasing a voluntary health insurance policy and creating a personal account on the State Services portal. It was assumed that, having created an office, the migrant would make an advance towards personal income tax in accordance with the patent and submit an application to the Ministry of Internal Affairs for inclusion in the register of foreign workers (within 30 days after crossing the border). The Ministry of Internal Affairs was given 10 days to make the appropriate decision. In addition to the register of foreign workers, the bill also mentioned the register of employers. The document also proposed obliging foreigners upon entering the Russian Federation to sign a “loyalty agreement” with a refusal to participate in extremist organizations, “unauthorized meetings, meetings, demonstrations, marches or picketing”: violation meant expulsion at the expense of the violator. It was planned to deport foreigners not only by court decision, but also on the basis of an act of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, if their stay in the country “is associated with a threat to constitutionally protected values.” The document also included a proposal to create a regime of “controlled stay” - including for persons in respect of whom “state authorities have made decisions that prevent them from leaving the Russian Federation”; and on the introduction of police supervision over the stay of foreigners.

The version of the bill sent to the Russian government has not yet been made public, but from Ms. Volk’s statements it can be concluded that it includes the listed proposals for 2021.

At the same time, the original bill has undergone a number of changes. In particular, the temporary stay of foreigners in Russia in the new version is limited to 90 days during a calendar year - now this period is no more than 90 days within 6 months. In addition, the document talks about the creation of a “digital profile of a foreign citizen” - “a set of information contained in the information systems of government bodies and organizations and linked by a single unique identifier.” Another proposal that was not included in the 2021 draft is a ban on government agencies, organizations, individuals and legal entities to provide any services to violators of migration laws. All interested will be able to “receive in real time electronic confirmation of the legality of the stay of foreigners in Russia.” “In particular, electronic confirmation of the legality of stay will be necessary for registering rights to real estate, marriage, the birth of a child, enrollment in universities, colleges and schools,” explained Ms. Volk.

According to Kommersant, the government has no conceptual objections to the Ministry of Internal Affairs project, however, the departments involved in the approval have a number of technical and legal comments that will require work on the text before its approval by the government.

The head of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots Leonid Kalashnikov (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) told Kommersant that the committee had been waiting for the initiative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for a long time, but was not yet familiar with the full text of the document. The deputy would not want “hasty” to appear when working on the document in connection with recent events, namely the terrorist attack in Crocus City Hall: “We need to approach the issue thoughtfully; in a hurry, we can make decisions that we cannot carry out, or, on the contrary, we can tighten control so much that everyone will “scatter.” Mr. Kalashnikov has questions about a number of proposals of the Ministry of Internal Affairs - including the combination of a “digital profile” with the procedure for recruiting foreign workers through a state operator, under which migrants can freely enter Russia and acquire a patent on the spot. The deputy believes that following the procedures in any case should be beneficial to migrants, “but the law cannot create benefits.”

“On the one hand, the labor market suffers from a shortage of workers, mainly in the “migrant” sectors,” says Evgeniy Varshaver, head of the group for research on migration and ethnicity at RANEPA. “On the other hand, many see migrants as a danger. Although the vast majority of migrants from Central Asian countries have nothing to do with terrorist activities, it is this social category that is the primary target of indoctrination by terrorist organizations. If there are fewer migrants, the terrorist threat will decrease slightly.” A single regulatory act regulating the entry and stay of foreigners is “rather good, it promotes transparency and simplicity,” says Mr. Warshaver.

At the same time, the sociologist fears that the final version of the bill will be “restrictive.”

“We can analyze each specific proposed measure. Let's say there won't be anything wrong with fingerprinting; after all, this is common international practice. But extrajudicial deportations are dangerous and corrupt, as they give law enforcement agencies almost undivided power over migrants and their employers... In order to at least maintain the level of migration, while making it more controlled and safe, it is important to simultaneously develop and take incentive measures,” says Mr. Warshaver.

Extrajudicial deportations also alarm human rights activists: the chairman of the “Civic Assistance” committee (engaged in legal assistance to migrants; included in the register of foreign agents), Svetlana Gannushkina (included in the register of foreign agents), believes that such measures are unacceptable: “Control is necessary, but without cruelty.” Extrajudicial deportations, in her opinion, will not be able to improve the level of security on their own.

The head of the Presidential Council for Human Rights (HRC), Valery Fadeev, told Kommersant that the number of illegal migrants in the country is “hundreds of thousands”, and the initiative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs is useful.

During the discussion of the bill in 2021, Mr. Fadeev expressed concern that extrajudicial deportations could infringe on the “natural rights of migrants.” Today he “does not see anything violating human rights to such an extent,” although he admits the emergence of additional corruption risks.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in the first half of 2023, foreigners were issued 9.1 million documents for registration (including 1.6 million to citizens of Uzbekistan, 960 thousand from Tajikistan and 400 thousand from Kyrgyzstan). In November 2023, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, which previously published monthly statistics, told Vedomosti about the transition to quarterly reports, but on the department’s website there is no data, for example, on the number of documents issued to foreigners for registration for 2023. In 2022, 16.8 million such documents were issued, compared to 13.3 million in 2021. The number of patents issued in 2022 was 2 million versus 2.2 million in 2021.

Emilia Gabdullina, Oleg Sapozhkov, Alexander Voronov

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