Many see tighter registration rules as comeback of Soviet-era residence permit

Source: RIA Novosti / Anton Denisov

Source: RIA Novosti / Anton Denisov

The official purpose of a new registration bill is to fight “massive abuse by owners of housing, in many cases, involving ill-gotten gains.”

However, the heads of some regions of Russia, including Moscow, in fact defied this law. Tight registration rules in the Russian capital stayed effective up to 1996, when the Constitutional Court declared a number of regional laws on registration ran counter to the Fundamental Law. However, in February 1998, the very same court ruled that “notifying the registration authorities of one’s place of stay or registration is not only a right, but also a duty of each Russian citizen.”

Should it be adopted, the new law will harm the interests of millions of Russians, human rights activists have warned.

The leader of the organisation called Civil Assistance, Svetlana Gannushkina, is quoted by the daily Novyie Izvestia as saying the proposed bill is “a project for jealous wives and husbands.” In her opinion it will concern not only migrants, but a great number of people registered in one apartment but resident elsewhere for this or that reason.

The head of the federal migration service FMS, Konstantin Romodanovsky, has said, though, “I would like to say once again that it does not concern people who have an apartment at one address, but reside at some other place… We shall not be chasing them or trying to expose them. There is nothing for them to worry about.”

The explanatory note accompanying the bill says the real purpose of amendments is struggle against so-called fake registration addresses and overcrowded flats, where several dozen or even hundreds of residents are registered at the same time. Gannushkina believes that such a phenomenon as phony registration addresses is quite natural. “The people do this because on their way to Russian citizenship there is such an obstacle as absence of registration at the place of residence,” the human rights activist said. “Cancel registration as a mandatory factor for getting Russian citizenship.”

In her opinion, the institution of the mandatory residence permit has already staged a comeback. It forces people to seek registration in order to be entitled to medical care, education.

The opposition is certain that this is yet another move to “tighten the screws,” which would merely harm the ordinary people. Experts are certain that harsh problems would not eliminate any of the migration-related problems.

The State Duma’s former member, retired federal security service FSB Colonel Gennady Gudkov, speculates that “the bill is consonant with the mainstream trend of taking a harder line,” but in the context of a corrupt state it will not be effective.

The deputy chairman of the State Duma’s constitutional legislation committee, Vadim Solovyov, of the Communist Party, believes that order must be restored, of course, but in a way that would not harm the law-abiding citizens. “Millions are constantly looking for a job and have to travel all over this country. We should not overdo it,” the daily Kommersant quotes Solovyov as saying.

There is the opinion legislation is being tightened for the purpose of political control of politically disloyal people. “I believe that behind all this there is an attempt to restore the Soviet style system of control of citizens,” Itogi magazine quotes political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin as saying. “It will be possible to use these rules against political opponents. First, registration procedures will be unduly delayed, and then charges brought forward.”

“No other act would violate the law on the right of citizens to the freedom of movement as seriously,” says expert Alexei Mikhailov, of the Center of Economic and Political Studies. With the adoption of the new act more loopholes will appear, he warns.

“My proposal addressed to the State Duma members is simple – cancel this law. Do away with the mandatory registration at the place of residence or stay for Russian citizens. Leave it in effect only for foreign nationals.”

“Will the state ever begin to trust its own people?” he asked in conclusion.

First published in ITAR-TASS.

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