“No matter how hard a migrant tries, he cannot be 100 per cent sure that he will not be sent to a ‘monkey cage”
Daniil Kashnitsky about the life and rights of migrants in Russia
What are the rights of Russian migrants from Central Asia, Transcaucasia and other regions of the world, the total number of whom has already exceeded 12 million people? What are the authorities doing to make their lives easier? How are migrants received in state medical institutions? Daniel Kashnitsky, a member of the regional expert group Migration and Health, answered these and other questions in the interview with Realnoe Vremya.
“A person who wants to come to Russia does not know the final list of requirements for him”
Do illegal migrants in Russia have any rights?
This question can be answered in terms of international agreements that define human rights. There is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which establishes these rights regardless of the legality of the status of a particular person. According to it, everyone has the right to life, health, and dignity. Russia has adopted this document, which means that undocumented migrants also have the rights indicated in it. By the way, in the academic environment, there is a very large opposition to the concept of “illegal migrant”. They say there are no illegal people.
The concept of “illegal migrant” is a discriminatory concept, it describes a migrant who has problems with documents that are either not issued at all or partially issued. If you try to uncover what is behind it, it is extremely difficult, as illegality can begin anywhere. For example, improperly documented registration or improperly drawn up a contract with an employer and as a result — errors in registration of the patent. There is some multiplicity of requirements in this.
At the same time, it should be noted that migration legislation often changes. Anthropologist Madeleine Reeves calls this situation “legal uncertainty”. In fact, such a legal situation is created that a person who wants to come to Russia does not know what the final list of requirements for him is. And as a consequence, no matter how hard a migrant tries, he cannot be 100 per cent sure that he lives according to the law and that a passing police officer will not send him to the “monkey cage” and will not issue documents for deportation.
Migrants living in Russia experience a constant sense of victimhood, no matter at what level of legality they are. There is still some vulnerability that lies in their socio-economic status. The beneficiaries of this legal uncertainty are, in fact, those who earn money from migrant labour. These are large construction companies, city administrations that hire people to clean the city, these are households where migrants work to care for the elderly, for children. We understand that few of them have the documents properly issued. It is good if they have the right to be in Russia at all. This situation is beneficial to those in power. I mean economic power in the first place.
Migrants living in Russia experience a constant sense of victimhood, no matter at what level of legality they are. There is still some vulnerability that lies in their socio-economic status
“The only right of a migrant with all the correct documents is to stay in the country and work”
What is the situation in other states?
Yes, this situation is not only in Russia. In some states, migrants are treated much more barbarically — for example, in the United Arab Emirates or Qatar. There, migrants from Pakistan and India live in slave conditions. That is, there are countries where it is even harder to live for migrants than in our country.
In general, there are some positive aspects in Russia's migration policy. But if we analyze it in recent years and consider the relationship between legislation and practice, then the term “legal uncertainty” characterizes our situation best.
There is a second starting point in this conversation. Not only in Russia, but also in other countries of the world, a practical neoliberal approach to labour migration is manifested. But if in Europe migrants have the right to social benefits, to medical care in one form or another, in Russia the only right of a migrant with all the correct documents is only to stay in the country and work.
For decades, agreements with the CIS countries on mutual pension accrual, on netting in the field of health insurance have not been signed. In many ways, this is the position of the countries from which migrants come. It was especially pronounced in Uzbekistan — that after moving to the Russian Federation, everything that happens to Uzbeks is their personal life circumstances. The first president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, even called them traitors. Now such rhetoric is not used, but in any case, there are problems more important than the life and health of migrants who live outside their homeland.
It turns out that international documents enshrining the right of everyone to life and health in Russia are not implemented in practice, right?
In practice, a person who is an undocumented migrant today has the right only to emergency medical care. That is, when his life is in danger, such as peritonitis, acute hernia, fracture or open form of tuberculosis. Migrants with such diagnoses are taken to a hospital, intensive care. This is not done perfectly, but you can always call an ambulance and get to the hospital. More or less, it works.
If in Europe migrants have the right to social benefits, to medical care in one form or another, in Russia the only right of a migrant with all the correct documents is only to stay in the country and work
“Insurance companies have focused and released cheap policies on the market that provide migrants with nothing”
After an operation, a migrant will be immediately billed and shown the door?
Here much depends on the position of the chief physician of a particular medical institution. There is no clear policy on this issue. When I interviewed doctors in Moscow, I got very different real practices for the treatment of migrants. Yes, somewhere they rigidly bill soon after the operation, but in many hospitals, there is a practice that a person is discharged 2-3 days after the operation or he or she continues to be treated at his own expense. As a rule, planned medical care and follow-up treatment are not provided free of charge.
For residents of the countries that are not members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), there is a system of patents. The patent is both a residence permit and a right to work. To get a patent, you have to buy a medical policy. That's great. But, of course, it hits in the migrant’s pocket, who often lends money to move to Russia.
So, it turns out that insurance companies understood the lay of the land and released on the market symbolic cheap policies priced worth 3,000-4,000 rubles, which do not provide migrants with anything. The list of services of such policies provides what is already free of charge under the laws of the Russian Federation. A migrant will have his appendicitis cut out because he is a human, after all. Moreover, when migrants tried to call on these policies, they were kicked off, sent to other institutions. Everyone treats such policies as a formality. You have to tick the box and just pay for the policy. No one refers to this in the context of human health and well-being.
A good medical insurance policy, giving access to a large set of services that a polyclinic can provide, costs about 25-30 thousand rubles. An ordinary migrant worker cannot afford to spend such money additionally. Because, first, people believe that everything will be fine with them, second, they simply do not have such money, and third, there is what is known as “healthy migrant effect”. That is, healthy young migrants emigrate, who, in theory, are not expected to get sick and with whom nothing bad is expected to happen. In our region, most migrants come not from hunger but rather to implement some of their life projects — to buy a car, to extend a house, to save for the education of children. They will not spend too much on current spending. They live in straitened circumstances, they have a modest bed-place. Migrants tolerate such conditions. This is the specificity of seasonal migration. Even if a person moves with his family, health care is not the second or even the third priority in the structure of his expenses.
Doctors of reception departments of Moscow hospitals told me in an interview that if a migrant gets to them, as a rule, it is something really serious. In the media, at one time, there was such rhetoric: “Here, we will make available medicine for migrants, and they will go to us with their sores. Or ‘tribal tourism’ will begin.” In fact, migrants come with such an advanced stage of a disease, with which, if a person does not receive aid, he or she just may die. They have such a work schedule that they have no time to go to hospitals.
In practice, a person who is an undocumented migrant today is only entitled to emergency medical care. That is, when his life is in danger, such as peritonitis, acute hernia, fracture or open TB
You have mentioned famine as the cause of emigration. In our days, is there really such a problem in some countries of the former USSR?
I guess I didn't say it right. After all, the level of GDP in the former Soviet Union states is higher than in sub-Saharan Africa. I mean poverty, in which people do not have a balanced diet. That is, people are in such a cycle of poverty that in order to implement some big life projects, they need to go somewhere to work — to the capital of their state, to Moscow or to Kazakhstan, Turkey, to some other countries.
“270k people applied for Russian citizenship last year”
For what purpose do they go mainly to Russia — to stay there permanently or it is a temporary relocation?
The number of applications for Russian citizenship is growing every year. Last year, they were about 270,000. In recent years, Russia has been pursuing a purposeful policy to liberalize obtaining a Russian passport. Now the list of those who can apply for simplified citizenship has been significantly expanded. The migrants who are trained one of the 135 specialties included in the order of the federal ministry of labour and social protection after a year of work in our country can apply for a passport of the Russian Federation. For example, they are doctors, engineers, mathematicians. Also, those who have a parent or spouse having a Russian citizenship, or those who were citizens of the USSR can apply for simplified citizenship.
This suggests that Russia is interested in attracting qualified people who speak Russian, who already have a profession. The demographic situation in our country is deteriorating, so pragmatism is behind it. To ensure that the standard of living in Russia does not deteriorate much, it needs to replenish labour resources.
In general, the migrants who left do not completely abandon their homeland. They are known to transfer money there. For example, countries such as India and China have received a lot from their diasporas in other countries, from joint companies, technology, diplomatic relations. It's all monetized.
Here we can touch on the topic of labour efficiency. I assume that in 30 years, 10 times fewer young people will be enough to feed all the pensioners who will be living at that time. Just as today, for example, in the US, only about one and a half per cent of able-bodied people are engaged in agriculture, but they not only feed their large country but also export food around the world. Even 100 years ago, it was impossible to imagine such a thing. This is an example of what is not very correct to project today's logic into the future.
The number of applications for Russian citizenship is growing every year. Last year, they were about 270,000. In recent years, Russia has been pursuing a purposeful policy to liberalize obtaining a Russian passport
“In St. Petersburg, every fifth homeless person is a migrant who has suffered from an employer and unfair labour relations”
Could you cite examples of successful and unsuccessful draft bills that were aimed at helping and integrating migrants?
Basically, I like the idea of organizational recruitment. It is when a country enters into agreements that a person can find a job there before leaving his homeland. For example, we have signed such an agreement with Uzbekistan. That is, a person knows that he will come within a certain quota, that his employer is waiting for him. Pre-known living conditions, payment, and, most likely, the person will not be cheated. This helps to reduce the number of people who are thrown on the sidelines of life because of employers’ deceits. In our time, this happens very often. For example, in St. Petersburg, every fifth homeless person is a migrant who has suffered from an employer and unfair labour relations. If we take into account internal migrants (citizens of the Russian Federation), then such homeless people are half of their total number. That is, if the relationship between employee and employer is better regulated, the number of homeless people can be reduced by half. It would also be good to include planned medical care for migrants so that people can receive medical care like ordinary Russians who live and work there. Because they work and pay all taxes.
Another good draft bill: within the framework of the EAEU organization (Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus), the citizens who are members of it have access to the system of compulsory medical insurance of Russia. The citizens of the EAEU countries do not need to obtain a patent when they come to Russia, they register at the place of residence, register at a local polyclinic and live like ordinary Russians. That's great. Of course, the devil is in the details. For example, in order to become a citizen, you still have to take tests for tuberculosis and HIV infection. If a chronic disease is detected, a person immediately becomes undesirable for staying in Russia and can even be deported.
It is also a good story that the time of consideration of the application for a temporary residence permit, we have reduced from six months to three. The document is now issued to foreigners without taking into account the quota, for example, if you have a Russian wife. The opportunities for legal residence in the Russian Federation and obtaining a passport have been extended. But, of course, there are still shortcomings.
Here is a little example. I have a friend, his name is Traore Kadzhal. He is a citizen of Côte d'Ivoire, but so his life went that he lives in Moscow. Here he married and had two children. Traore has been living there for 7 years and only now he was able to start obtaining a permanent residence permit as a husband of a Russian woman. He submitted the documents in October. During the time of their consideration, it is important for him to be in Russia only legally — but a visa is given for a maximum of 3 months. This means that my friend has to leave and return to the country during the entire period of consideration in order to survive on these three-month visas. Besides, while waiting, you have no right to work officially. You have to support your family, take money from somewhere for these trips, as well as visa processing, tariffs and official transfers. I know of many cases where the demands of the bureaucracy put people in a very difficult situation.