Five-year-old Refugee With Disability Denied Access To Kindergarten

Varvara’s family has fled the armed conflict in Ukraine, in Russia, they were granted refugee status and got registration at the place of residence. The Department of Education, however, does not consider all of the foregoing to be enough.

Five-year-old Refugee With Disability Denied Access To Kindergarten

Varvara is a disabled child: the relevant status has been assigned to the girl by a medical commission in Moscow. Three years ago, she and her mom fled Eastern Ukraine. In Russia, they were granted refugee status and got registered at the place of residence. Those papers are a dream for many migrants who left their homelands because of war or persecution and are seeking asylum in Russia, since legal status gives the right to work, and registration facilitates access to pre-school and school education: even though access to education is guaranteed to each child in the country by the Constitution, in practice, in some regions only those who have registration at the place of residence can actually access it. According to the data of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, only 598 hold this status, 168 of them are Ukrainians (as of 1 July 2018).

In summer 2016, Irina Volkova, Varvara’s mother, filed an application to enroll her daughter in a kindergarten by means of the website of the Mayor of Moscow Her application was registered, and Varvara’s surname was placed on the list of the children awaiting their place in the pre-school educational institution. The girl did not study in 2016-2017 nor in the 2017-2018 school year: her number on the list was not moving closer to the beginning of the queue, despite the fact that there were free places in the kindergarten right next to the building where Varvara is registered. That became clear when Irina reached the Department of Education of Moscow and assured the attendant that her registration is equivalent to the permanent registration: then her daughter’s name suddenly moved to the very beginning of the list. However, the joy did not last. Following a short pause, Irina received a letter demanding Irina to send the certificate by form No. 8 “On registration of the child at the place of residence”. This is essentially impossible because, under a regulation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, such a certificate is only issued to citizens of Russia. As a result, Varvara Volkova got back to her original position on the waiting list.

In the view of human rights defenders, this is a typical problem, and the thing is that public servants apparently simply don’t understand that registration at the place of residence valid for one year is in no way different to the permanent one. And the only reason it is only drawn for 12 months is that refugee status needs to be prolonged every year, which means that the registration has to be prolonged as well. So Volkova’s family was erroneously attributed to the category of holders of temporary registration that is constantly being discriminated by the city’s authorities on the matter of access to kindergartens. Even though the officials claim that the problem with access to pre-schools has been solved, in fact, this statement is only justified for those who are considered Moscow residents by the authorities, that is for Russian citizens with unlimited registration at the place of residence. Those who do not have unlimited registration at the place of residence supported by certificate No. 8 (that only citizens of Russia can get), usually spend years observing their names on waiting lists.

In spring 2018, the girl’s mother Irina Volkova desperately contacted the Civic Assistance Committee that had launched a program on facilitation of access to kindergartens at the end of the previous year. With the help of the employees of the organization, the Ukrainian sent a request to the Department of Education to provide a place in a kindergarten to Varvara, only to receive a standard formal reply that her daughter was on the list and had to wait as Moscow’s kindergartens do not have enough vacant places. Then, with the help of the Committee’s lawyer, Irina filed a lawsuit with the Meshanskiy District Court demanding to order the Department of Education to provide the child with a place in a kindergarten or to provide her with a compensation of the expenses of enrollment into a private kindergarten as in accordance with the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of 2 October 1992 No. 1157 “On additional measures of state support of people with disabilities”, children with disabilities must have priority to be provided with places in kindergartens.

Awaiting an appointment for a hearing, the employees of the Committee also sent a letter to the Mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin (right before his re-election) asking to pay attention to the fact that a girl with a disability who had fled the war in Eastern Ukraine was denied access to kindergarten. Two weeks later, a response followed: the request had been registered with the Mayor’s Office.

The employees of the Committee also contacted the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner for the city of Moscow and received an answer that access to education falls within the scope of the competence of the Department of Education that follows the “Temporary rules” in the question of enrollment in kindergartens. In other words, the employee of the Commissioner’s Office found no violation of the child’s right to access to education and took no action.

See this article for more information on the “Temporary rules”, the document that in fact has no legal force.

In the closest time, a hearing should be scheduled on the suit filed by Irina Volkova with Meshanskiy District Court.

Photo: Svetlana Vidanova

Translated by Daria Gorbacheva

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