#6 - JRL 7068
February 19, 2003
Foreigners Advised to Stand Up to Police
By Robin Munro
Foreigners should be ready to stand up to police if they are hassled over the new migration cards, the deputy head of the Federal Migration Service said Tuesday.
Mikhail Tyurkin was addressing a seminar on the law on foreigners, which made migration cards a requirement, in an attempt to clear up the confusion that has clouded their introduction.
Tyurkin said that foreigners, when asked to present documents to police on the street, should comply politely and "look the officer in the eye.
"You should tell them that they don't know the law if you entered Russia on a visa before Feb. 14, you are registered and don't have a migration card and they tell you that something is wrong with your papers," he said. "You can ask the police officer for his first and last name and date of birth and tell him that you will see that he is properly informed. If he refuses, then he is not a real police officer but only posing as one."
Told the police have been checking papers to extract bribes, he said foreigners should not pay off the police and said he wanted to be told about such cases. "Just let me know who they are, and I will see that they are fired," he said.
Migration cards were introduced at all Russian and Belarussian border points Friday. Foreigners without visas -- mainly those from the CIS -- are required to carry cards.
Those with visas are required only to fill in the cards, have them stamped at the airport, and then surrender them on departure, Tyurkin said. "The main concern is citizens without visas," he said.
Officials have contradicted one another on the registration of foreigners with multiple-entry visas. Tyurkin said they will have to register only once for the duration of their visas, while Nikolai Kurakov, the deputy head of Moscow's passport and visa department, said last week that they will have to reregister each time they enter Russia. Under the law, foreigners have to register each time they enter Russia. Various officials have said, however, that this will not be enforced and the law will be amended.
Criticizing advertisements offering migration cards for 1,500 rubles ($63), Tyurkin said no one should pay a third party for a migration card because they are free of charge.
Asked what foreigners who do not speak Russian should do if they are stopped, Tyurkin said all Moscow police speak English. This was greeted with laughter from the audience of about 150.
Maryann Gashi-Butler, managing partner at Phoenix Law Associates, said foreigners should have someone whom they can contact should the police say their papers are not in order. "In addition to an element of pure opportunism at the police level, there appears to be genuine confusion among state agencies whether registration of foreigners is to occur centrally or locally," she said.
People receiving migration cards on inbound aircraft are told to register the cards at their local passport and visa office, but those offices have refused to register them in the past week, she said.
Alexander Yermolenko, legal adviser at audit and consulting firm FBK, told the seminar that the law on foreigners is ambiguous and filled with hurdles for employers.
"It is difficult to imagine what kind of value a foreigner needs to offer an employer for the employer to be prepared to comply with the entire authorization process on the employee's behalf and deal with all the questions arising from the new legislation," he said.