Network of Legal Consultations for Refugees,
Forced Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons in the regions of
List of Regional Branches
“Migration Right” Network of
legal assistance to forced migrants was founded in 1996. This is one of the
programmes of the “Memorial” HRC having a great experience in the field of
human rights protection in Russia
The basic aim of the programme is to create a qualified, effective and
accessible to every forced migrant system of free legal assistance. At the present time (March 2005)
Network embraces 45 regions of
Practice has shown that the most actively operating posts are becoming units of a regional network – they organize consultative posts and find financing for them.
The programme functions with the support of:
the Department of the UNO Supreme Commissar for refugees (UNHCR),
A big role in the development of the Network was played by the support of the democratic TACIS programme of the European Union.
Project is partially funded by the European Union (EU) European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights Delegation of the European Commission to Russia;
A serious financial support is provided by the government of through the international organization the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), uniting 80 non-government organizations rendering assistance to refugees from 31 countries.
As a result of many years of cooperation between ECRE and “Migration
Right” Network, on
Network lawyers conduct about 22000 consultations per year, render assistance in preparation of over 2000 claims, complaints and applications to court, perform about 400-500 free consultations at the temporary displacement centers and places of compact residence of migrants; lawyers of the Network represent interests of migrants in courts in over 1000 cases annually.
The Director of the network is a member of the Board f the “Memorial” Human Rights Center, member of the Government Commission on Migration, member of the Commission for Human Rights under the President of Russia Svetlana Alekseevna Gannushkina.
Address: 12, Maly
Telephone: 200 65 06, 251 53 19, 790 74 55,
Fax: (499) 251 53 19,
Migration situation in
*) In accordance with the definition of the UNO Convention of 1951, a refugee is a person, who “due o fully substantiated fears of becoming a victim of persecution according to race, religion, citizenship, membership of a certain social group or political convictions are located outside of the country of their citizenship and cannot use protection of this country…”; a similar definition is given by the RF Law “On Refugees”.
A notion of a forced migrant is given in the RF Law
“On Forced Migrants”. This is an exclusively Russian notion, determining a
legal status of a citizen of
The international law considers persons, who are forced to leave places of habitual residence as a result of an armed conflict, continuous violations of human rights, Acts of God or calamities, caused by the activity of a man, and who did not cross state borders, as internally displaced persons (IDP). There is no such notion in the Russian legislation.
Temporary asylum is given to a foreign citizen or person without citizenship when there are grounds for recognizing him a refugee or there are humane reasons that require his temporary stay in the territory of the RF (for example, state of health) until an elimination of such reasons or change of a legal position of a person.
We shall call refugees, forced migrants and IDP such persons who are in a corresponding position irrespective of the fact if they have an official status or not.
A total number of migrants at whom are Network is oriented are refugees, forced migrants, IDP, and partially, labour migrants who need protection, constitutes, according to our evaluations, about 3 million.
In May 1996 at the UN Conference on migration in CIS countries the
Russian authorities declared that there were 290 thousand refugees and 900
forced migrants, having a status in the territory of the RF. Both arrived to
the RF exclusively from the countries of former
During the last years these numbers have considerably dropped. Certificates of the most part of refugees were recognized as document of undue form. The certificates of the approved form were not issued to the refugees on the grounds that they had not passed a status determination procedure. A status is granted to forced migrants for the term of 5 years, upon the expiration of which migration bodies had to prolong its validity to those who did not manage to settle. However the majority of forced migrants lost the status without receiving anything from the state.
For the present day (the end of 2003) only 10 thousand persons have the
status of a refugee, from whom there are 8 thousand inhabitants of
A number of refugees from distant foreign countries are only 411 persons. There are about 1200 people who received a temporary asylum. An actual number of refugees is much more, if one takes into account that there are not less than 150 thousand Afghani only in the RF.
About 470 thousand migrants have a status of a forced migrant.
There is no special IDP status in the Russian law. The status of a
forced migrant, which was given during the first Chechen campaign, already was
not given after a resumption of military actions in
The basis of a migration policy during the last 3 years is a struggle
against illegal migration to which about 2 million of residents of
The Federal Law “On Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Territory of
the RF”, which became effective in November 2002, turned not less than 500
thousand persons (according to other evaluations 2 million) of our former
compatriots who arrived to Russia on legitimate grounds into illegal persons.
This law introduced three possible types of legal position of a foreign citizen
and a person without citizenship, not making any distinctions between them, in
the territory of the RF: temporary stay, temporary residence and permanent
residence, a permission for which is confirmed by issuance of a residence
permit. A temporary stay of foreigners having a visa is legal until the visa is
valid. For CIS citizens, having a right to visa-less entry to
A quadrilateral agreement between the RF,
Federal Law “On RF Citizenship” deprived many relatives and close
persons of Russian citizens of citizenship: elderly parents, children, husbands
and wives. Amendments adopted on
frequently does not correspond to the laws and international obligations of
In summer of 2003 a
Resolution of the RF Government of July 4, N 404 “On the order of making
compensation payments for lost residence and property, which suffered as a
result of solving a crisis in
Great hopes were
put to item 10 of Resolution N 404, which obliged responsible ministries to
submit proposals for an introduction of changes into resolution of the
Government of the RF of April 30, 1997, N 510, “On the order of paying
compensations for lost residence and/or property to citizens, who suffered as a
result of solving crisis in Chechen Republic and who left it for good” to the
Government of the RF in a 2 months time. These changes should have extended the
timeframe of the validity of Resolution N 510 in such a way, so that
compensation could have been received by those, who left
Thus, in spite of the fact that Russian ratified the Convention on Refugee status of 1951 and an Additional Protocol of 1967, as well as adopted relatively liberal laws, regulating a legal position of refugees and forced migrants, nevertheless the state refuses to treat migration problems as priority ones.
Several reorganizations of the Federal Migration Service (FMS) took place during the last 3 years: its liquidation as an independent institution in May 2002 and inclusion it as a department into the Ministry on Affairs of Federation, National and Migration Policy, which was eliminated in October 2001, and FMS was included into composition of the Ministry of Interior of the RF. That brought about the fact that for a continuous period the activity of territorial bodies was actually paralyzed, financing programmes of assistance to forced migrants was practically stopped. Now, when territorial migration bodies are transformed into the Department on Migration Affairs (DMA) and are included into composition of territorial bodies of interior (municipal departments of interior - GUVD), links between FMS of the Ministry of Interior and DMA GUVD are not those of a direct subordination, but are limited by exclusively methodological support. One cannot expect a consistent and humane migration policy under such conditions for the time being.
The existing situation of legal defenselessness makes forced migrants
not only overcome difficulties of settlement at a new place, but also defend
their legitimate rights, one of which is becoming legalization. Violation of
the rights of migrants at the level of regional and departmental normative
regulation and in administrative practice is aggravated by the fact that
employees of bodies of interior cannot master all peculiarities of changed and
unreasonably overcomplicated normative base and procedures for issuing
permissions for temporary and permanent residence during a short period of
time. A lost time to stay in the
Not having enough information about their rights and obligations, and not having resources for legal support and attorney’s assistance, migrants become a permanent object of abuses by regional power structures and separate officials.
In these conditions social free consultation posts for forced migrants are becoming the main, if not the only one, source of independent and objective legal assistance.
A court defense of rights of forced migrants is not always effective.
Often judges do not have necessary knowledge in the field of the migration law
and non-critically approaches a position of state bodies, the actions of which
are appealed. Not rarely they give preference to local normative acts, instead
of being guided by federal legislation. However judicial power, in the first
Resolution of the RF Government of April 30, 1997 N 510 on compensation to citizens, who left Chechnya for good during the time of military actions, contained a requirement of placement on record at migration bodies; besides, in 2001 the term of the validity of this Resolution was limited. Upon our application, The Supreme Court recognized that both are illegitimate. This, according to the FMS data, gave a possibility to receive compensation additionally to more than 1700 families. Each payment for a family constituted 4000-4500 dollars, and a total sum of payments as a result of these two decisions of the Supreme Court constituted the amount of the order of 7 mln dollars. We also managed in the judicial order to achieve an introduction of changes into several Moscow acts, first of all into the rules of registration at the place of residence and stay in Moscow and Moscow area: norms of living space, terms of registration and a requirement about the need of registration when accepting children to schools and kindergartens were canceled.
Not once the
Constitutional Court (in 1996 and 1998) recognized laws and government
resolutions, returned an institute of residence registration, limiting
registration in time or by availability of a living space, charging of large
additional fees from foreign citizens when they by property in the RF and
others, as contradicting to the RF Constitution. In November 2001 the
are associated with the possibilities of the
An immediate task of the Network is a protection of rights and legitimate interests of forced migrants – providing a free consultative assistance to them, preparation of legal, including judicial, documents for them, support at administrative and judicial bodies. Legal assistance in the framework of the programme is first of all provided to:
In a number of cases legal assistance is also provided to other categories of migrants.
A concrete task of providing a legal assistance is only a part of a more general and perspective goal: to provide conditions for integration of migrants into the society, obtain a solution of their problems on the basis of generally accepted legal standards; eliminate a discriminatory approach and arbitrariness on behalf of officials of all levels. That is why, in addition to providing a concrete legal assistance to migrants, the Network puts more general tasks before itself.
Regional posts are the basis of the Network. As a rule, they are created on the basis of non-government organization, engaged with the problems of migration and defending rights of refugees, forced migrants and IDP. We conclude an agreement on non-commercial partnership with these organizations. Several posts are operating directly on the basis of migration bodies. This is possible in the regions where an attitude towards migrants is benevolent.
The Network turned out to be a good mechanism of effective work of the
“Memorial” Human Rights Center as a whole. After resumption of military
The obligations of each of the posts include:
Regional posts report about their work before the Coordination center.
- accumulates and generalizes all information about the work of the Network, including reports of regional posts, conducts an organizational work;
- develops programmes of training seminars, organizes them and publishes collected works and other manuals according to thee results of the seminars;
- acquires and supplies regional posts with necessary literature, as well as technical equipment;
- carries out bookkeeping accounting, related to the work of the Network.
Employees of the
Reports are sent three times a month, if a sponsor does not require to
make it more often. Reports are prepared according to a single form and stored
in the corresponding databases Lotus Notes. All posts are linked between
themselves via Internet. For experience exchange a database on judicial cases,
which is kept by lawyers of regional posts, was developed. These databases are
at the server Lotus Domino, located at the
The center developed and constantly updates databases on legislation, on answers of ministries and establishments to generally important inquiries of Network employees, on the status of migration situation and its evaluation by Network lawyers, other organizations and press. Each post has a client’s programme Lotus Notes and replicas of necessary databases at their local computers. With a help of periodic replication of these bases with the server their timely updating is achieved.
Besides, a great part of information about Network work, as well as addresses of the posts, telephones and reception hours are accessible through Internet at the address http://refugee.memo.ru.
Consultants of a high qualification work at the Network, who:
- analyze and generalize reports of regional employees and judicial practice,
- answer to inquiries of regional posts, participate in the development of legislative proposals on the matters affecting the rights of forced migrants,
- make conclusions on draft laws or functioning federal and regional acts. These conclusions are brought to information of corresponding state bodies, State Duma deputies, non-government organizations and other interested persons.
At least twice a year “Migration Right” Network conducts seminars on the problems of migration law, topical for Russian and for the world community as a whole. Leading Western specialists in the field of migration law, Russian lawyers, leading specialists of Ministries and establishments take part in them.
In addition to
training seminars, in 2002-2003 we organized 4 seminars for attorneys – members
of Chechen Bar Association on the subject – “Changes in the Russian Legislation.
Work of Attorneys at Courts” together with Office for Democratic Institutions
ad Human Rights of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe,
UNHCR and Independent Council of Legal Expertise. Sessions were conducted by
leading lawyers - scientists and attorneys of
A feeling of being
cut off from the world was overcome; our trainees felt that they are lawyers
again and people, whose problems are not indifferent to the world. They take
this feeling to
A seminar on the
same subject was conducted together with UN HCR (offices in
The Network also
organized tow international seminars in
The work of the “Migration Right” Network during the time of its existence has shown that legal consultations together with juridical support on separate court cases (up to the higher instance) can create a positive court practice and by this change the position of migrants to the better.
This is reached by different ways.
One of the ways is organization of a large amount of one type cases, won in courts, attracting an attention of the authorities of the Supreme Court to the problem as a whole with the aim of initiating Resolution of the Plenum of the Supreme Court or an instruction letter of a corresponding content.
In 1997 payments of
compensations for lost residence and property to citizens, who run away from
After a number of applications, the Plenum of the SC in 1996 indicated (the case of Kakulia) to courts that for the cases, related to the refusals in granting a status of a refugee or a forced migrant, a burden of proving lies not only upon an applicant, as it happens in a usual civil process, but upon migration bodies as well, as often an applicant due to his position can only present the facts of persecution, but not to prove them. Checking of information, presented by a person seeking an asylum, is an obligation of state structures, which have all necessary possibilities for that.
Citizens of the
Other method lies in application to the Supreme Court or Constitutional Court in protection of interests of undefined group of persons, when a decision on recognition of a legal act or its part as contradictory and not subject to application, adopted by a judicial power, causes the change of a situation as a whole, and further on analogous cases are resolved without application to court.
Thus, according to the Resolution of the Government of the RF of April 30, N 510, compensation could be received only by citizens who in 1994-96 left Chechnya for good, and were placed on record at the migration bodies; besides, in 2001 the term of the validity of this resolution was restricted. The Supreme Court recognized both as illegal. This, according to the FMS gave a possibility to get compensation for 1700 families additionally. Each payment per family constituted 4000-4500 dollars and the total amount of payments as a result of these two decisions of the SC constituted the sum of the order of 7 mln dollars.
By a determination
The “migration Right” programme exists and successfully develops thanks to partnership with other organizations, engaged in the problems of migration.
First of all this is a Regional representation of the UNHCR in
In 1997 in the course of implementation of project according to TACIS programme the Network became a partner of ECRE and its legal network ELENA, uniting lawyers, specializing in the field of rendering legal assistance to refugee. Cooperation with ECRE/ELENA is exceptionally valuable for us thanks to the huge experience, accumulated by this international organization, assisting us in conducting training seminars for Russian lawyers, in analysis of the international situation, development of law and literature in the field of migration. We are planning to activate the participation of the lawyers of the Network in the activity of ECRE/ELENA, as well as exchange of experience and useful information, to which contributes a membership of HRC “Memorial” in ECRE.
The network successfully cooperates with foreign non- government organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Danish Council on refugees, Finnish Council for the assistance to refugees, Norwegian Council for Refugees, The Network maintains direct contacts with non-government organizations of other CIS countries, rendering assistance to forced migrants, and exchanging information with them, which allows to have an impression of the migration situation in these countries.
If one speaks about Programme partners among Russian non-government
organizations these are first of all four other programmes of the “Memorial”
HRC: “Discrimination due to ethnical reasons”, “Persecution according to
political motives”, “Trouble Spots”, “Preparation of cases for the
Of significant importance for the operation of the Network is a constructive cooperation with organizations of migrants themselves, first of all with their association – a Forum of migrants’ organizations. The Forum puts as its task a protection of interests of migrants organizations in their relations with public organizations in the center and locally, and its departments exist in many Russian regions. In some regions lawyers of the Network are working directly on the basis of organizations included into the Forum; in any case they are striving for establishing a working interaction with them.
The most close working and human relations exist between the Network and
oldest non-government organization, which takes up care about forced migrants –
Moscow Committee for Assistance to Refugees and Forced Migrants- “Civic
Assistance Committee”, on the basis of which
One more partner of the Programme is an Independent Council of Legal Expertise, which includes notorious lawyers-researchers and practitioners. This organization renders assistance to the Network in conducting seminars, preparation of expert conclusions about draft laws and functioning normative acts, touching upon rights of forced migrants, as well as in an analysis of the existing enforcement practice.
Locally, Network posts are cooperating with regional human rights organizations, first of all with “Memorial’s” departments and migrants’ organizations, associations of lawyers, communities of migrants. Network posts work on their basis, their addresses and names can be found in the below list of Network posts. We thank all our regional partners for cooperation and permanent support of the “Migration Right” Network.
We realize that the main tasks of the Network – protection of migrants’
rights and development of a legal approach to the solution of migration
problems with the account of the international obligations of the
The most important role in granting registration to newly arrived migrants, in status determination, their settlement, is played by the Ministry of Interior. Local bodies of interior are far from always aware of the differences between rights of usual travelers and forced migrants, victims of national dissension, violence, and discrimination. The Network tries to achieve uniformity in application of laws and normative acts of the RF by the bodies of interior through the Ministry of Interior.
Not seldom does the Network apply to the Office of Attorney General with
petitions for the introduction of protests in respect of regional and
departmental normative acts, contradicting to the federal legislation. Such
applications are supported by experts’ conclusions prepared by consultants of
Sometimes we apply to the Ministry of Justice with a request to make an examination of a contested act. Such examination strengthens our position in courts.
One of the ways of adjusting mutual understanding between the Network and executive power bodies is participation of representatives of the FMS, PVD of the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Office of the Attorney General and other institutions in the seminars for lawyers of the Network. Information, in which they state the position of their establishments, answers to the questions and participation in a general discussion are extremely useful for further work. As a rule, establishments reveal an interest in such cooperation, which undoubtedly helps to find answers to many complicated questions which migrants face. Besides, lawyers from regions obtain a possibility of a direct communication with representatives of federal structures.
Taking into account an urgent need in partial updating and improving legislation, regulating a legal position of forced migrants, the Network is striving to attract attention of the State Duma to this problem. Here it is based on the support of a number of deputies – like minded persons, first of all the deputy V.V. Igrunov, one of the initiators of the creation of the “Memorial” HRC and ‘Civic Assistance” Committee.
Setting up a network of legal assistance for refugees and forced
Dealing with the problems of refugees and forced migrants through the legislative, judicial and administrative systems.
Violation of international norms and the Russian legislation on the rights of refugees and forced migrants. (2 and 3 seminar in one book). "Zvenya", Moscow, 1999.
Current problems of migration. International mechanism for refugees' rights protection. "URAO", Moscow, 1999.
Legal problems of citizenship acquisition by forced migrants and their
job placement on the territory of the
Legal issues concerning the social protection of forced migrants in
ELENA International Course on Refugee and Asylum Law.
(was not published)
Refugee status determination: standard of proof and status determination of undocumented asylum seekers. "R.Valent", Moscow, 2000.
Problems of victims of warfare in the
State of administrative and judicial practice on the issues pertaining to the situation of refugees and forced settlers (is being translated)
M. Lobov. Issues concerning the application of
the European Convention on Human Rights. Guarantees of rights to property.
Protection of refugees' rights. Supervision over the execution of the
Tax and tariff
legislation as applied to problems of forced migrants. "R.Valent",
Legal and social situation of forced migrants in
Work with Asylum Seekers
Legal and social problems of internally displaced persons (IDP)
Problems of theory and practice of application of new legislative norms
On the Implementation by the Russian Federation of the Programme of Action
Developed in May 1996 at the Regional Conference to Address the Problems of
Refugees, Displaced Persons, Other Forms of Involuntary Displacement and
Returnees in the Counties of the CIS and Relevant Neighboring States. "R-Valent",
Orlov O.P. Conditional
Justice. About situation with investigation of crimes against civil persons,
committed by representatives of federal forces in the territory of
Anna Politkovskaya Alien War,
or Life behind the Barrier.
E.V. Belousova. In an assistance to forced migrants.
(published upon order of the “Civic Assistance Committee”)
Dulnev B.N. Checking documents and registration at a public place…
(published upon order of the “Civic Assistance Committee”)
Committee (format 20x20). "R-Valent",
Committee (format 10x20). “R-Valent",
 See list of publications