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Bill tightening registration rules meets with firm resistance all over Russia

March 05, 2013, 15:33 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, March 5 (Itar-Tass) – The presidential bill tightening the rules of Russian citizens’ registration has encountered fierce resistance all over the country. It has drawn protests from regional legislatures, users of the world web and human rights activists.

The document’s critics are certain that it will not help the country move a single step forward in the struggle against illegal migration, but, on the contrary, create problems virtually for all citizens. It will be targeted against those who reside not at the place where they are registered, against those who lease apartments to dwellers without registering them, and also those who grant registration to relatives or friends who plan to live separately.

Experts say that the presidential initiative will fail to achieve its aims, while corruption will soar. They recall that in free countries the institution of registration does not exist at all.

The legislative assembly of the Astrakhan Region has issued an appeal to the State Duma demanding cancellation of the introduction of criminal punishment and of higher fines for violating registration rules.

A wide campaign of protest was launched in the Internet. In less than ten days of February the initiative group managed to collect 20,000 signatures against the bill. In the Internet the association (which literally means No to Residence Permit) is acting as the signup campaign organizer. The website was designed by artist and civil activist Artyom Loskytov, of Novosibirsk. On February 23 the heavy influx of visitors jammed the site. Now the activists plan to restore this resource to normal operation and to collect 100,000 signatures in order to hand them over to the State Duma, the Federation Council and the presidential staff.

In February 2013 State Duma members adopted in the first reading the president’s bill introducing criminal punishment for the violation of rules of registration at the place of residence. The official purpose of the proposed law is to eliminate “massive abuse by house owners of their property rights, which often have material motives.” As follows from the explanatory note, in 2011 alone there were 6,400 addresses where nearly 300,000 individuals were registered. All of these were shirking “constitutional liabilities to other citizens, the state and society.”

Among the proposed measures is this newly-coined term “fictitious registration of a citizen at the place of presence or residence.” In a word, registration on the basis of obviously false information and documents, or registration “without the individual’s intention to reside at the address.”

The reason why people need faked registration will be easy to understand, if one bears in mind that now without registration it is impossible to seek citizenship, in many places, to apply for a job, and even to get a passport or a bank loan.

The proposed amendments to the rules of registration of Russian citizens and of keeping on record foreign migrants are confined to two items. One introduces the term fictitious registration, for which individuals will be punishable with a fine of 100,000-500,000 rubles or a prison term of up to three years. The other establishes sanctions for residence without registration.

The institution of residence permit existed back in the Soviet era. It was one of the mechanisms of state control of people’s movements. Residence without registration was prohibited and could entail deportation, fines and correctional works.

The residence permit was canceled on October 1, 1993. However, in 1998 the Constitutional Court ruled that “it is not only a right, but also a duty of citizens to notify Russia’s bodies of state registration of their place of presence and registration.”

Human rights activists have interpreted the bill as the actual restoration of the residence permit, which violates the constitutional right of people to the freedom of movement. The chairman of the Civil Assistance committee and chief of the Migration and Law network of the human rights center Memorial, Svetlana Gannushkina, is quoted by the daily Novyie Izvestia as saying that when it joined the Council of Europe in 1995, Russia pledged to eliminate the institution of the residence permit, however, the authorities are now restoring it in a far worse form than it existed in the Soviet era.

“For Russian citizens registration has no positive meaning. They perceive it as a restriction. For the economy to be effective the population must be mobile,” the deputy chief of the Transparency International Office, Ivan Ninenko is quoted by Nezavisimaya Gazeta as saying.

The presidential amendments violate the constitutional right to the freedom of movement, says Public Chamber member, Moscow State University lecturer Yelena Lukyanova. At a certain point the institution of residence permit was canceled as unconstitutional. It was renamed to “registration,” which must be declared illegal, too.

“If the state is unable to keep lists of its citizens and other people resident in its territory in a way other than pegging the individual to the place of residence, then it is the problem of the state, which should not entail the restriction of people’s rights,” Lukyanova said.