S. Gannushkina,
Head of the “Migration Rights” Network


Opening Speech

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 Rights” Network.
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. Walter Keilin.
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 effectively enough.
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.