Head of the “Migration Rights” Network
ON THE DEVELOPMENT
OF THE “MIGRATION RIGHTS” NETWORK
Opening the eighth seminar of our program, I would like to tell about the
“Migration Rights” Network of the “Memorial” Human Rights Center to those
who joined us recently.
The Human Rights Center implements several programs. The first one is called
“Hot Spots.” It is directed by Oleg Orlov, chairperson of the “Memorial”
Human Rights Center, who is going to speak to you. Officers of the program
perform the monitoring of human rights violations in hot spots. At present
their main concern is Chechnya and everything that surrounds it. It is
in many ways thanks to them that the world knows about what is really going
on in Chechnya.
Another programs of ours, “Prosecution from Political Motives,” is headed
by Valentin Gefter. It covers some of the CIS countries, namely Belorussia,
Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
Our third program is named “Discrimination on Ethnic Basis.” Our center
in the Krasnodar region works in close cooperation with Alexander Osipov,
who serves as the director of the program.
Besides, we have a radio programme of our own, its presenter is Tatiana
Kasatkina. It airs weekly, and this is where we can discuss things that
we consider important.
Finally, there is the program “Forced Settlers in Russia.” Primary area
of its concentration is the functioning and development of the “Migration
The idea of this project appeared in 1995 when thanks to the UN OHCR non-governmental
organizations were brought in to the elaboration of the Programme of Action,
the resulting document of the Regional Conference on Problems of Refugees,
Involuntarily Displaced and Returning Persons in the CIS and Adjacent States
that took place at the Palace of Nations in Geneva in May 1996. The process
of elaboration lasted for a year and a half, round tables and meetings
were held to discuss problems of the forced migration and another version
of the draft of the Programme of Action.
One day I was approached by a representative of the ECRE (European Council
on Refugees and Exiles) who proposed me to start a joint project. Today
ECRE is our permanent partner, while Bill Siary, the officer of ECRE, is
our mate and friend, and he is not alone. Rachel Bugler and Daniel Drake
attend all of our seminars, they constantly assist us with their organization
and assume negotiations with invited speakers of the seminars from abroad.
ECRE bears part of the costs of the seminars. For instance, our previous
seminar dedicated to the definition of the refugee status aimed at lawyers
of non-governmental organizations, judges, prosecutors, and officers of
migrations services of Belorussia, Moldavia, Russia, and Ukraine was almost
completely backed by the ECRE. It was again the ECRE who arranged the participation
of internationally renown lecturers such as Prof. James Hataway and Prof.
We began the preparation of a joint project in summer 1996, right after
the conference, in order to apply with it to the TACIS Democratic Program
in October. However before we submitted the project in October that could
start only one year later, the UN OHCR office in Russia offered us financing
on its own initiative in August. In December 1996 our first seminar was
held. It was named “On the Organization of a Network for Legal Consultations
to Refugees and Forced Settlers on the Territory of Russia.” We recruited
our representatives in the first five regions at the seminar. The TACIS
Program granted funding to our project, which allowed us to increase the
number of regional centers. The total number of centers reached 20 (including
ones supported by the UN OHCR). The project is over at the moment.
Last summer, in summer 1999, we developed the new project to back the network
and its development for the next five years. It received financing from
the Ford Foundation and Mott Foundation for the two years to come. The
foundations agreed to pay two thirds of our expenses, and the other third
is paid by the contract that we have with the UN OHCR. According to the
project, the number of the consulting centers should reach 50 by the end
of the year 2001. There are already 40 of them at present.
Ingushetia has now accommodated 200 thousand persons who suffered from
the warfare. So the most recently opened center was set up in Nazran a
month ago. The center is special, it has more than one lawyer as everywhere.
There is a staff of five social workers, a doctor, a lawyer, a receptionist,
and a driver. Apart from this we pay for the lease of premises there, which
we do nowhere else as there are organizations capable of providing an office
for the reception of forced settlers to our lawyers in the other regions.
The center in Nazran pursues three directions. These are the monitoring
of human rights violations, legal aid, and humanitarian aid, the latter
being provided through the “Civic Assistance” charity organization, which
was instrumental in raising $100.000 to help people in the regions of Chechnya
and Ingushetia. Thus, the center works under our program, the “Hot Spots”
program, and the humanitarian program of the “Civic Assistance.”
To my mind, one of the things we can be proud of are our seminars. Persons
who are responsible for the problems in question take part in them, among
them are officers of the Federal Migration Service, Internal Affairs Ministry,
other Ministries and Departments, Prosecutor General Office, Supreme and
Constitutional Courts. On the other hand, at the seminars there are always
present lawyers who can provide legal treatment of the current situation
from the point of view of the national legislation and international acts.
And after all, there are foreign specialists who can tell how the problems
brought up in the seminar are resolved in places where they are resolved
Using the experience that we acquired, we held a seminar “The Standard
of Proving and the Work with Asylum Seekers without Identity Papers” under
the auspices of the international NGO task force on the refugee rights
legislation in collaboration with the Dutch Refugee Council in Prague in
December 1999. The task force works in under the process of the conference
on the forced migration in the CIS and adjacent states. Members of the
task invited officials of their countries to the seminar that was held
at the highest level so the participating officials of the highest rank
were all listening and with a keen interest. The seminar has undoubtedly
served to the establishment of relations and cooperation between non-governmental
organizations and state agencies in every of the countries.
Yet another important form of our work is publications. We publish proceedings
of seminars in two languages, Russian and English. We intend to publish
proceedings of the Prague seminar as well so all the officers of the Network
will be able to familiarize themselves with the excellent reports that
we heard in Prague. Last year we published a book immediately for migrants,
“Guide of a forced settler,” it is almost entirely out of print now, we
are preparing “The Legislation on Refugees and Forced Settlers in Questions
and Answers,” we bought manuals of Russian as a foreign language for children
at the expense of the UN OHCR and donated it to the Ministry of Education
with the permission from the UN OHCR. We donated this manual along with
the book “Hello, English” to organizations working with children, in particular
to the Center for Adaptation and Training of the “Civic Assistance.”
Our participation in the creation of the legislative and standard basis
in the domain of migration cannot be called effective as the process in
general proceeds very slowly, and most recently the events in Chechnya
suspended it altogether since all efforts of both the Federal Migration
Service and non-governmental organizations are aimed at the convulsive
attempts to hold the situation on the brink of a catastrophe instead of
addressing long-term objectives.
In our eighth seminar we will consider problems connected to the execution
of court decisions and implementation of prosecution response measures
that are often ignored by those who should implement them. Warfare in Chechnya
affects the legal situation in all of its aspects. Tragic circumstances
of victims of the events cannot but become a subject of discussion at the
present seminar. In the first part of the seminar we would like to hear
opinions of human rights advocates as well as opinions of high-ranking
officials of the Federal Migration Service and Emergency Situations Ministry
on the circumstances of inhabitants of Chechnya. Second part of the seminar
will be dedicated to the mechanisms that judicial bodies and the prosecutor’s
office use to execute their decisions.
In conclusion, I would like to wish every success to the work of our seminar
and the “Migration Rights” Network.