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Human Rights Center "Memorial"

M. Karetniy pereulok 12,  103051, Moscow, Russia, tel:(095) 200-6506, fax:(095) 209-5779, email: memhrc@memo.ru  

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A modern state can only exist in a lawful environment. In solving the problems of refugees and displaced people in particular, it is necessary for the state to implement the laws and agreements it adopts.

We must strive to achieve a situation in which the migration services stops defending the interests of the state against those of the migrants and instead protects the rights and interests of the migrants. It is necessary to create public opinion in this sphere. Public organizations should be the link between the migrants and state structures.

In order to help migrants save themselves from being applicants seeking help from the offices of all-powerful officials and demanding respect for their rights and certain laws, it is necessary to have the co-operation of a great number of people from all regions of Russia. The idea of creating a network of consultative help for refugees and displaced people came up during the preparation for the UN Conference on Forced Migration in the CIS in 1996. The international non-governmental organization The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) proposed that Memorial become a partner in the democratic program the TACIS project. However, before sending our application to TACIS, we were offered financial and consultative support by the UNHCR office here in Moscow. Our program currently has 40 legal consulting offices working for refugees and displaced people in Russia.

Our aim is to make free legal help accessible to every refugee and displaced person. Consultative offices around the country undertake analytical work in evaluating the migration situation in their areas, especially regarding the possibility of granting refugee status by the local migration services and authorities. (Moreover, we have established a data base of legislation and violations of the law that we strive to make accessible and open.)

We have worked out a mechanism for fighting locally enacted acts that violate the Constitution of the Russian Federation and federal legislation. We send documents that we are doubtful of to experts of the Independent Legal Expert Council, which gathers the best lawyers in Russia. We send the conclusions of the experts to the prosecutor s office with an application in which we try to show the practical consequences of administering such acts. The support of State Duma deputy V.V. Igrunov, our permanent assistant, has considerably increased the effectiveness of such appeals. Today, there is in our favor some changes in the orders of the Federal Migration Services, the Moscow police and the Ministry of Education. There are instructions from the Moscow government on a special order for granting refugee status to refugees and displaced people.

The program conducts two seminars a year in which participants share experiences, conduct consultations on legal matters, and discuss changes in legislation and new opportunities for refugees and displaced people. Russian lawyers, leading officers of the migration services, the prosecutor s office, the Ministry of Internal affairs and foreign specialists in the field of migration attend the seminars. To this day we have conducted seminars on the following topics:

  1. Setting up a Network of Legal Assistance for Refugees and Forced Migrants in Russia
  2. Dealing with the Problems of Legal Assistance for Refugees and Forced Migrants through the Legislative, Judicial and Administrative Systems
  3. Violation of International Norms and the Russian Legislation on the Rights of Refugees and Forced Migrants
  4. Current Porblems of Migration: International Mechanisms for Refugee's Rights Protection
  5. Legal Issues concerning the Social Protection of Forced Migrants in Russia
  6. Refugee Status Determination: Standard of Undocumented Asylum Seekers
  7. Problems of Victims of Warfare in the Chechen Republic. Mechanism for the Execution of Court Judgments and Implementation of Prosecution Response Measures
  8. Legal Problems of Citizenship Acquisition by Forced Migrants and their Job Placement on the Territory of the Russian Federation

Moreover, in the wider framework of our program, we consider it necessary to try and educate youth in a way that may foster a generation of lawyers who could, by working in the Federal Migration Services or in the Border Migration Services, put before them the task of seeking the interests of refugees and settlers and not those of the state to the detriment of the former, and who could understand that the highest meaning of a state is in its ability to create living conditions worthy for people living in it.

Svetlana Gannushkina
Program Manager

Printed editions

Problems of victims of warfare in the Chechen Republic. Mechanism for the execution of court judgements and implementation of prosecution response measures

Refugee status determination: standard of proof and status determination of undocumented asylum seekers

Setting up a network of legal assistance for refuges and forced migrants in Russia

Dealing with the problems of refugees and forced migrants through the legislative, judicial and administrative systems

Legal problems of citizenship acquisition by forced migrants and their job placement on the territory of the Russian Federation

Legal issues concerning the social protection of forced migrants in Russia