MINELRES: Joint NGO Open letter to President Putin on citizenship in RF

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.delfi.lv
Fri May 30 17:32:54 2003


Original sender: Emil Adelkhanov <emil-ade@cipdd.org 


Dear all

We are sending you an open letter which was jointly drafted by AI and a
number of leading Russian NGOs concerning citizenship in the Russian
Federation. In the open letter we urge President Putin to take immediate
steps to ensure access to citizenship and permanent residency rights to
former Soviet citizens without discrimination. There are just under 50
signatories to this appeal - a clear indication of the importance
attached to this issue by the Russian NGO community.


Open letter

AI Index:  EUR 046/2003/12
21 May 2003


Russian Federation: Open letter from a coalition of non-governmental
organisations to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, President of the Russian
Federation


Russian Federation
103132 Moscow
Pl. Staraya, 4
Kremlin

21 May 2003

Dear Mr President,

We, international and Russian non-governmental organizations listed
below, are writing to express our concern that discriminatory practices
and procedures are preventing many former Soviet citizens in the
Russian Federation from obtaining permanent residency rights and Russian
citizenship.

The introduction of two new laws in 2002: the Federal Law "On
Citizenship of the Russian Federation" and the Federal Law "On the Legal
Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation" has exacerbated
the problems faced by hundreds of thousands of former Soviet citizens in
obtaining official legal status. These new laws have exacerbated the
possibility of applying citizenship legislation in a discriminatory
way, and in many cases the denial of citizenship and permanent residency
rights may be linked to ethnicity or nationality.

We welcome your statement made in the annual address to the Federal
Assembly on 16 May 2003 in which you acknowledged the shortcomings of
the laws adopted in 2002 on citizenship and the status of foreigners.

In particular, you highlighted the problems of acquiring citizenship for
millions of people in the Russian Federation and the need to facilitate
the process of legalisation, especially for former Soviet citizens. We
support the introduction of measures in line with the recommendations
stated in this appeal, and call for the speedy amendment of the laws on
citizenship and the status of foreigners which were adopted in 2002.

The Law on Citizenship of the Russian Federation (2002) provides that
foreign nationals and stateless persons can apply for Russian
citizenship provided that a number of criteria are met. One of these
criteria stipulates that applicants must have permanently resided in the
Russian Federation for a period of five years since being granted a
permanent residence permit. In practice, many former Soviet citizens who
have actually been permanently residing in the Russian Federation for
the last 10 to12 years were denied permanent residence registration by
local internal affairs departments for discriminatory reasons.

Under the new legislation and associated enforcement practices they are
therefore unable to get temporary residence permits and subsequently
permanent residence permits. In effect, they are prevented from
exercising their legal right to apply for citizenship.

In addition, former Soviet citizens unable to obtain Russian citizenship
face severe consequences under the Law on the Status of Foreign
Citizens. In agreement with Article 37 of this law, if you do not have
documentation to prove that you are legally and permanently residing in
Russia you will be considered a person temporarily staying in the
country and receive a migration card which limits the term of stay to
three months.  If you have not been granted temporary right to reside
following this three month period, by law, you can be deported.

In effect, the impact of these laws is to bring to an end the permanent
residency and citizenship rights of hundreds of thousands of former
Soviet citizens, the majority of whom have been residing habitually and
lawfully in the Russian Federation since the break up of the USSR. Now
rendered illegal migrants, many face imminent deportation.

We urge you to use your authority to ensure that the appropriate steps
are taken to guarantee that the discriminatory elements of these laws,
or discriminatory aspects of their implementation, are effectively
redressed.

In particular, we consider the following categories of persons to be
affected by these laws in a discriminatory way:

 1) Former Soviet citizens who were permanently residing on the
territory of the Russian Federation prior to the 1991 Law on Citizenship
of the Russian Federation coming into force (6 February 1992)
 2) Former Soviet citizens (citizens of Commonwealth of Independent
States (CIS) countries and stateless persons) who legally entered the
territory of the Russian Federation after the dissolution of the Soviet
Union within the last 10 to 12 years without a visa, and are permanently
residing in the Russian Federation.


Former Soviet citizens residing permanently in the Russian Federation
before 6 February 1992

Many of the people within this category were forced to flee from other
states of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as a result of
conflicts immediately preceding the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.

As provided by Article 13, part 1 of the 1991 Law on Citizenship, those
belonging to this group were entitled to be recognised as Russian
citizens unless they specifically indicated their willingness not to
become Russian citizens.


Interpretation of the permanent residency requirement

Despite being entitled to acquire citizenship, in practice, many of
these people were denied the right to citizenship as provided in this
law. The 1991 Law on Citizenship requires that persons applying for
citizenship must be permanently residing on the territory of the Russian
Federation. State bodies processing citizenship applications interpreted
the permanent residence condition as requiring possession of permanent
residence registration or "propiska". Some regional and local internal
affairs departments interpreted the permanent residency requirement as
requiring documentary proof of registration at their place of abode on
the day the 1991 Law on Citizenship came into force. Frequently,
attempts to obtain such registration were also unlawfully blocked by the
local and regional authorities through unconstitutional regional laws or
practices for discriminatory reasons on the basis of the ethnic
background of applicants.

According to the Presidential Commission on Citizenship of the Russian
Federation, by the end of 2001, fewer than half the people living
lawfully and habitually on the territory of the Russian Federation but
without residence registration at the time the 1991 Law came into force
had been able to obtain Russian citizenship.

However, as you will be aware, the Constitutional Supervision Committee
of the USSR has twice ruled the residence registration system
("propiska") to be unlawful, in 1990 and 1991. This means that, since
these rulings, the term "permanent residence" does not equate to or
require possession of residence registration ("propiska"). Both of these
rulings were made prior to 6 February 1992, the date the 1991 Law on
Citizenship came into force.

Notwithstanding these rulings, which rendered "propiska"
unconstitutional, it is clear that the residence registration system has
continued to be a major factor in the denial of citizenship to former
Soviet citizens who should have been entitled to citizenship under the
1991 law.


Discriminatory application of citizenship laws

The ethnicity of applicants has also played a significant role in
obstructing the acquisition of Russian citizenship; many minorities have
been prevented from obtaining Russian citizenship, and therefore
associated legal rights, on the basis of their ethnicity. Ethnic groups
particularly affected by this are the Meskhetians in Krasnodar
Territory, Kurds, and Armenians. For example, the vast majority of the
11,000 to 13,000 Meskhetians living in Krasnodar Territory are being
denied their legal right to citizenship because of discriminatory
legislation and practices specific to the territory. Population
estimates from "The Situation and Legal Status of Meskhetians in the
Russian Federation", Alexander Ossipov, Memorial Human Rights Centre,
January 2003.



Former Soviet citizens (citizens of CIS countries and stateless persons)
who legally entered the Russian Federation after the dissolution of the
Soviet Union and have been residing permanently in the Russian
Federation since 6 February 1992

Currently, only those people belonging to this category who possess
residence registration are eligible for permanent residence permits.
Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of former Soviet citizens in Russia
have been living in Russia with temporary registration or have been
arbitrarily denied any form of registration. Official estimates by the
Russian authorities indicate that persons within this group number from
half a million to just over three million people. This group is of
particular concern as many people who have actually been permitted to
reside in the Russian Federation for a number of years now face the
immediate threat of deportation.

As previously mentioned, the Law "On the Legal Status of Foreign
Citizens in the Russian Federation" of 2002 now provides that members of
this group will be eligible for migration cards. Following this, if they
wish to remain in the Russian Federation, they then have three months in
which to apply for temporary residence permits if they wish to remain in
the Russian Federation. However, because the procedure for applying for
temporary residence permits can take up to six months, according to
another article of the law, they may inadvertently be rendered
×€˜illegal' pending the outcome of the registration procedure. They are
as a consequence vulnerable to discrimination on the basis of status and
ethnicity and may face deportation when the three months expire.
Furthermore, these people are deprived of the right to work or to have
any other source of income in Russia.

The following safeguards and standards are essential to ensure effective
implementation of laws relating to citizenship and the status of foreign
nationals in the Russian Federation, without discrimination in
particular on the basis of ethnicity:

- the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of former
Soviet citizens lawfully and habitually resident in the Russian
Federation;
- the granting of legal status to those lawfully and habitually
resident in the Russian Federation;
- compliance with the constitutional and international obligations of
the Russian Federation;
- protection against refoulement -- forcible return of persons to a
situation where they are at risk of grave human rights abuses, in
accordance with the international treaty obligations of the Russian
Federation and principles of customary international law;
- the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution and to a fair
and satisfactory procedure for determining refugee status;
- the right to due process, in accordance with international
standards, before steps are taken to expel or deport an individual.

 We the signatories to this appeal therefore urge you as President of
the Russian Federation and a constitutional guarantor of human rights,
in accordance with powers thereby conferred upon you, to:

 1. Issue a Presidential Decree concerning former Soviet Citizens
entitled to Russian citizenship by the 1991 Citizenship Law:
 - Recognising as entitled to Russian citizenship [it should be an
individual's choice/decision as nationality/citizenship cannot be
imposed] those citizens of the former Soviet Union who have that right
in accordance with Part 1, Article 13 of the Law on Citizenship of the
Russian Federation of 1991. This concerns those who were permanently
residing in the Russian Federation on the day the 1991 Citizenship law
came into force (6 February 1992);

 - Ensuring that groups such as the Meskhetians, Kurds, Armenians and
other ethnic and national minorities will be guaranteed the right to
citizenship without discrimination;

 - Making provisions to guarantee that the relevant officials of the
internal affairs department will give due consideration to citizenship
applications for those that fall within the above category, whether or
not the applicant is in possession of formal registration documents

 2. Table amendments in the State Duma to the Law on Citizenship of the
Russian Federation of 2002, aimed at facilitating the acquisition of
citizenship for former Soviet citizens.

 3. Issue a Presidential Decree concerning former Soviet citizens who
have entered and been permanently residing in the Russian Federation
prior to 1 November 2002:
 - Setting out a simplified procedure to grant legal status (permanent
right to reside) to former citizens of the Soviet Union who were
residing in the Russian Federation on the day that the federal law of
2002 "On the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation"
came into force (on condition that they entered the country no later
than 1 November 2002);

 - Stipulating a fixed period in which the above group will be
guaranteed the right the apply for permanent residency status, on the
submittal of evidence (the admissibility of which is recognised by
Russian law) of their arrival on the territory of the Russian Federation
and actual residency therein before November 2002;

 - Ensuring transparency of the procedure, in particular by making
provision for legal representation and judicial review rights;

 - Guaranteeing that applicants will not be forcibly deported or
compelled to leave the territory of the Russian Federation pending a
final decision on their applications.

 4. Table amendments in the State Duma to federal law of 2002 "On the
Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation" to remove
any restrictions or potentially discriminatory conditions, including
transitional conditions, to access to legal status for former Soviet
citizens residing in the Russian Federation.

The above actions would serve to restore and ensure respect for the
rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, of hundreds of
thousands of people lawfully residing in the Russian Federation who are
being denied access to their legal rights. We believe these issues can
be solved swiftly and effectively by the executive authorities through
implementation of the recommendations contained within this appeal, and
we urge you to exert all appropriate authority as President of the
Russian Federation to ensure that these steps are taken as swiftly as
possible.

We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,



Irene Khan, Amnesty International

Valery Abramkin, Centre for Prison Reform, Moscow

Ashot Airapetian, Centre for Interethnic Cooperation, Moscow

Alexander Axelrod, "Tolerance" Foundation, Moscow

Boris Altshuller, Movement without Borders and "The Rights of the
Child," Moscow 

Semen Ateev, Kalmyk Human Rights Center, "Elista"

Andrey Blinushov, Ryazan Society "Memorial"

Alexander Brod, Moscow Bureau on Human Rights

Yuri Vdovin, Human Rights NGO "Citizens' Watch," St Petersburg

Alexander Verkhovsky, Information and Analytical Centre "Sova," Moscow

Dmitry Vokhmianin, Committee for Human Rights Protection in the
Republic of Tatarstan, Kazan

Svetlana Gannushkina, Civic Assistance Committee, Moscow

Valentin Gefter, Human Rights Institute, Moscow

Lidiya Grafova, Forum of Migrants' Organisations, Moscow

Eugeny Grekov, Civic Education Club of the Creative Union "Southern
Wave," Krasnodar

Elena Grishina, NGO "Human Rights Information," Moscow

Dezire Deffo, African Union, St Petersburg

Yuri Dzhibladze, Center for the Development of Democracy and Human
Rights, Moscow

Gavhar Dzhuraeva, Regional Non-Governmental Foundation for Assistance to
Refugees and Migrants "Tajikistan," Moscow

Iosif Dzyaloshinsky, Human Rights Foundation "Commission on the Freedom
of Access to Information," Moscow

Muzaffar Zaripov, Regional NGO "Inson," Moscow

Maxim Egorov, NGO "Nochlezhka," St Petersburg

Sofia Ivanova, Ryazan School of Human Rights

Petrus Indongo, African Students Association, ASSAFSTY, Moscow

Vadim Karastelev, "School for Peace" Foundation, Novorossiysk

Tamara Karasteleva, Novorossiysk Human Rights Committee

Natalya Klochkova, Kaliningrad Regional Youth Migrants' NGO "Youth of
the 21st Century"

Alexey Kozlov, Charitable Foundation "For Environmental and Social
Justice," Voronezh

Tatiana Kotova and Pavel Gostishev, Association "Christian Inter-Church
Diakonic Council of St Petersburg"

Boris Kreyndel, Regional Non-Governmental Institution "Commission on
Human Rights in Tomsk Oblast," Tomsk

Alexander Kuznetsov, Charitable Humanitarian NGO "The World of
Childhood,", Krasnodar Krai

Arkady Leibovsky, Centre for Pontic and Caucasian Studies, Krasnodar

Tanya Lokshina, Moscow Helsinki Group

Rudolph Massarsky, Harald and Selma Light Centre for Human Rights
Advocacy, St Petersburg

Nina Nettova, Centre for Human Rights Protection "Liberty Road,"
Yaroslavl

Alexander Nikitin, Saratov Human Rights Center "Solidarity"

Oleg Orlov, Human Rights Center "Memorial," Moscow

Nadezhda Pavlova, Karelian Union for the Protection of Children,
Petrozavodsk

Fuad Pepinov, International Society of Meskhetian Turks "Vatan," Moscow

Irina Poduzova, Ioshkar-Ola City NGO "Man and Law"

Georgy Rafailov, Regional Charitable NGO "Association for Assistance to
Refugees," St Petersburg

Yulia Sereda, Interregional Group "Human Rights Network," Ryazan

Olga Smitnitskaya, Kaliningrad Regional NGO Foundation for Support to
Refugees and Forced Migrants "Home"

Nina Tagankina, Nizhny Novgorod Human Rights Society and Nizhny Novgorod
Peace Group

Natalya Taubina, Foundation "For Civil Society" and Russian Research
Centre for Human Rights, Moscow

Sarvar Tedorov, International Society of Meskhetian Turks
"Vatan,"Krasnodar Krai

Leonid Teleleiko, Krasnodar regional NGO "Human Rights Center,"

Vladimir Tishinsky, Krasnodar Human Rights Center

Andrey Yurov, International Network ×€" Youth Human Rights Movement
(YHRM), Voronezh