To Stand for Russia

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Our report in “Mediazona” on how the queues in the offices of the Federal Migration Service became a goldmine for intermediaries, who are not always quite legal.

To Stand for Russia

The queues in the offices of the Federal Migration Service  is a universal equality in action. A young Ukrainian woman with Russian education, a refugee from Congo, a wealthy Armenian couple, who are waiting at the entrance in their white Mercedes, each of them has to visit “their” department of the Federal Migration Service for several weeks in a row to apply for a temporary residence permit or for a residence permit. However, there is an alternative way — to talk to the security guard. Or talk to “Vasya, which is not here right now, but everybody knows him.” Or go to an authorized agency around the corner, where a cute girl will issue you an “all inclusive” package with documents submission on the next day for 27 thousand roubles.

Queuing as a job

— We are like sheep on the street. We cannot sit inside or take a form — talks about daily experience in the Federal Migration Service of the Eastern Administrative District of Moscow the refugee from Georgia, Marina.

More precisely, she was a refugee once, now she is already applying for the Russian residence permit. There are queues to different rooms in the department of the FMS on Sirenevy Boulevard: for a temporary residence permit, for a residence permit, for a certificate of temporary asylum — to apply for a legal status, one has to get in line. The queue is usually infinite.

— I was told immediately: do not expect fast progress, we’re standing here for five months. First we came to queue every day, then we had to be on duty around the clock. One woman was queuing here for half a year, she got fired from her job and now she comes here as if to work — every day. They only invite one or two people per day and sometimes they do not take anyone. There are lists for queuing, but sometimes  for no reason at all the FMS staff tear these lists, after which chaos ensues and everything starts all over again, — says Marina. And often they call for people who are not on the lists at all.

Like other foreigners in the queue, Marina came to apply for a residence permit six months before the expiry of the temporary residence permit, as required by law. But there was not enough time. None of those who come to the FMS for the first time are prepared for the months-long saga with the disappearing lists and overnight stays in the car at the entrance. This is very similar to a Kafkaesque drama — a person comes sure that he or she will queue for a few hours at most, but in practice it lasts a year. Because if the documents are «returned back», one has to go back and start all over again.

“When I went there for the first time, for a long time I stood in confusion. And then a guy came and asked if I need any help. I asked what kind of help was it. He said it was a place in a queue for five thousand roubles. And this is just to show your application, it is not for sure that the documents will be accepted. But for twenty-five thousand they will be accepted for sure.”

Marina decided to give this guy five thousand roubles, this was all she had. Surprisingly, this system has its etiquette, and even some humanity, “Vasya”, as we will call him, not only took the money. He was always controlling the process — he made an appointment, called, asked how things went. In the FMS office where Marina was let in through the back door on the day X, she was even offered a cup of tea.

— Probably, for twenty-five thousand I would be offered a chocolate bar —  she laughs. By the way,  her application was not accepted in the end — five thousand roubles was not enough, they found some mistakes in her submission. When Marina was invited in, nearby stood a couple with a small child – the mother was crying. They tried for several months to submit an application, and inspectors returned it because of one wrong letter.

You will not pass. And I will

The story with Mytischi began when I promised to Ruddy, a refugee from the Congo and one of the wards of the Civic Assistance Committee, to help with submission of documents for the temporary residence permit.

I can just say — I managed to help him only six months later. A fast track price tag was inhumane: to apply to the Mytishchi district department of the Federal Migration Service without quibbles and queues was possible only for 27 thousand roubles. The first time we naively came here on Friday – the only day when one can go based on the “first come first served” approach. Amazingly, in Mytishchi it is indeed possible. In Moscow, there is no such option. But one has to come before opening hours — those who  come later will have no chance.

Of course, there is another option. If in Moscow territorial FMS is occupied  by amateur “Vasyas”, which hang next to the queue and offer their services to people, the process in Mytishchi is well organized. There is an extension building adjoined to the Migration Service, which flaunts a sign: “Authorized Agency of the Russian Federal Migration Service.” Inside – a neat open space, where three pretty girls sit. I quickly got advice there.

— Do you need a consultation?

— Probably yes. You know, there are such queues, and we need to apply for the temporary residence permit.…

— Yes, big queues. But we can help you, — smiled the girl, fixing her ideal hair. — Look. Here is the list of the documents for you to bring. Do not fill in the form— we will do it for you. This costs two thousand roubles. And twenty thousand roubles will cost the full support.
— And what does «full support» mean? You yourself will submit the application and I do not need to come?
— No, you will only need to come and get a stamp. We cannot pass the medical examination instead of you, of course. The rest we will take care of.
— And when you can file my application? There are such queues, I don’t even know …
— Do not worry. The inspector will have all the documents on the same day you will pay for the service.

Nearby I found yet another sign of an authorized agency. The same scene was repeated there. It is striking that such agencies have grown like mushrooms around the FMS department where you can actually get without them. You will have to queue of course, to arrive Thursday night, to sleep in the car, to keep the lists, but to get in Mytishchi is still real.

However, my Congolese friend was not lucky — he was admitted, but his application was not accepted. They found errors. With him they were not even shy — probably they thought that he would not understand anything anyways.

— They did not even look at anything – says Ruddy. — They simply said that the statement is all wrong, and I should go and fill it in for money at the agency that is nearby. They said I will never get through, so I should go and pay. I do not know what to do. If I go here every week I will get fired. And I do not have the money.

However, Ruddy had to travel to Mytishchi every week. All Civic Assistance office worked on his application. This time, he was told again that the application was not properly filled and he should go to the experts of the Authorized Agency, where his application was filled in for two thousand roubles. A week later, when he brought this application, he was told that he needs to bring an extract from the house register with the data on registration of his child and a certificate of employment. When he brought an extract from the house register and a certificate of employment, the documents were not accepted again: he was asked to tell how he got a job, how he got registered, they checked the document for registration and found that it was genuine. Then Ruddy was told that they need his employee book or a contract.

All these requirements — are in direct violation of the Administrative Regulation of the Federal Migration Service on issuance of a residence permit in the Russian Federation to foreign nationals and stateless persons, approved by the Order of the Federal Migration Service of Russia from 22.04.2013 N 214. This order clearly specified list of documents required and statements from the house register from the place of residence of a child or employee book are not in there.

Visitors of the department with who the Congolese shared his problems, said that he will be driven up until he goes to the Federal State Unitary Enterprise and pays the 25 thousand roubles. For those who pay, things are different – this woman told me, we sat together on the bench in the queue at a time of the first Ruddy’s visit. She is from Ukraine, she is applying for a month already – and she can not get in on the first come first served basis. I know that this is not the limit. But she feels that one month is an ordeal.

— I was sitting here and suddenly comes a guy — young and very confident. We told him there is a queue here, which started last night, he could not possibly get in. And he looks at me slyly and tells me, may be you cannot go in, but I can. Right now. Without any appointment. And it was true, he was called in ten minutes. Leaving the office he was happy and without documents, obviously his application was accepted.

Documents from Ruddy were accepted, however, after almost half a year. He began his epic journey long before my intervention in September 2014 and ended it in March 2015. A complaint, which was prepared in the Civic AssistanceCommittee helped – the FMS Head office obliged employees in Mytishchi to finally accept documents from the Congolese. However, by March the laws have changed, and Ruddy had to pass an exam in Russian language, history and law, but he had coped with this task.

Do not complain

I appealed to the leadership of the Federal Migration Service with questions about the endless queues and even received a reply.

“The work of departments is organized in accordance with the regulations governing the activities of the Federal Migration Service by activity branches, as well as on the basis of the technical possibilities available to the Federal Migration Service, ” — said the letter, signed by Marina Solovieva, Head of the Department for Citizenship, Permits for Temporary Residence and Residence Permits. More responsive were the employees of the department of Human Resources, the Prevention of Corruption and Other Offenses. However, they could not say anything more certain.

” I have not heard anything about the authorized agencies in Mytishchi. But, please, leave your contact number, I’ll go there and check everything. If you want, come to visit us, tell us the details, put them in writing “— an officer on duty invited me. He also offered to write a statement on the “helpers.” However, I was not personally present when “Vasya” offered help, and those migrants who obtained access to the staff of the FMS through them, are usually afraid to complain — what if they will be denied temporary residence permit or residence permit.

— Federal State Unitary Enterprise — it is the same FMS, they are working legally. And there is nothing you can do about it, – says the lawyer Alexander Mazalov who faced such organizations when helping Syrian refugees.

— But the Federal State Unitary Enterprise — is a commercial enterprise, although with state participation. By law, they are entitled to provide those services that are not provided by the FMS. On paper, this is exactly what happens: in the contract the services of such agencies are stated as consultancy or information provision.

Another thing is that in fact this is a fake transaction: services that FSUE provides in practice do not correspond to the services specified in the contracts. And, according to Article 170 of the Civil Code, such transaction may not be valid.

Based on the example of our civil services, I see: the emergence of Federal State Unitary Enterprise means that the usual way to get the services of the FMS has become much more difficult. By the way, this service is not omnipotent – a violation can be appealed to a higher state body or the prosecutor’s office. For example, the Federal Tax Service is much more powerful, but it constantly loses a lot of claims, says the lawyer.

Yet complaints about the FMS — especially in regard to obtaining a residence permit and a temporary residence permit – are not many, and most of these complaints are written by human rights activists who specialize in migration issues and not by foreigners. The fact is that the territorial bodies of the Federal Migration Service on the most “highly paid” issues work with rather vulnerable and legally illiterate part of the population – those foreigners who are trying to be legalized in Russia. FMS employee has a great power over a person: often human life depends on the decision of the official. Perhaps that is why, in contrast to the Federal State Unitary Enterprises that are dealing with foreign passports and charge for their services from three thousand roubles, Federal State Unitary Enterprises specializing in temporary residence permits and residence permits, as well as a variety of intermediaries, do not lower the price below 25, 000 roubles. Or the review of these documents takes the staff of the FMS more time? Whatever it is, it is better to ask them about this. Or, for example, the prosecutor’s office.

Author: Elena Srapyan

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