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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Romodanovsky, first of all, our meeting today takes place just as you are about to celebrate the anniversary of the Service’s founding.
Director of the Federal Migration Service Konstantin Romodanovsky: Yes, the twentieth anniversary.
Vladimir Putin: I congratulate you and all of your staff. Over these years the Service has developed practically from scratch and has accomplished a lot at this time when the world, and Russia, is undergoing change. Migration is a sensitive issue for Russia’s people and for those who come to our country. It goes without question that we still need to do a lot to improve work, and in this respect I want to inform you that I have approved the Migration Policy Concept. We discussed for a long time the need to approve this document, and I know that you and your colleagues put much hard work into it. The main thing now is to make sure that it is implemented in practice and does not remain on paper only.
What is the Service doing to ensure that this will be the case? What are you doing to make sure that everything that you and your colleagues discussed and set out in the Concept is actually carried out in practice?
Konstantin Romodanovsky: Mr President, first of all, on behalf of everyone working for the Service, I thank you for the attention you pay to migration issues and to the Service’s work. This means a lot to us. We realise that as a service reporting directly to the Government we enjoy additional trust, but also have additional responsibility. This is something very positive for us, and we will be sure to put it into practice.
Regarding the Migration Policy Concept, let me say that we have already sent an implementation plan to the relevant federal executive agencies for approval. This plan sets out in detail the areas of work and the steps we will take, including as regards the tasks that you gave us at the final meeting of the FMS board and the objectives that you formulated in your pre-election articles on interethnic relations and social policy. We have taken all of this into account and have already taken some steps. We have drafted amendments to the Criminal Code, the Code of Administrative Offences, the law on entry to and exit from the Russian Federation, the regulations on the legal status of foreign citizens, the Housing and Civil Codes. These draft amendments are currently undergoing approval by the federal executive agencies. This work is therefore underway and all of the measures set out in the Concept’s implementation plan will be carried out.
We realise that Russia’s migration model needs further improvement. We see the problems that require urgent solution. I hope that the Migration Service will succeed in its efforts and we will soon change Russia’s migration landscape. In this we can rely only on our own efforts.
Vladimir Putin: We discussed the work needed in terms of improving laws and regulations. Having the Concept is all very well, but we must make sure that its provisions work in practice and that the needed changes are made to the laws in force. This concerns migration flows and internal migration too. We spoke about the possibility of toughening policy in this area, though we must ensure at the same time that any changes respect our citizens’ rights. We must also work together with people coming from other regions of the country, and with immigrants arriving from abroad.
You are in the process of drafting your proposals. I want to get a clear idea of what stage this work is at now and what solutions you intend proposing.
Konstantin Romodanovsky: Mr President, above all, we propose the legal amendments I just mentioned.
Vladimir Putin: Which specific laws will you amend, and what exactly do these amendments entail?
Konstantin Romodanovsky: We propose an amendment to the Criminal Code that will increase liability for wilfully leaving detention centres for foreign citizens. We propose making this a criminal offence.
Vladimir Putin: What sort of detention centres are you referring to exactly?
Konstantin Romodanovsky: I am talking about special detention centres for foreign citizens, readmission centres and suchlike. We also propose increasing penalties for organising illegal immigration and for entering or remaining in the Russian Federation while being prohibited from entry. In other words, if someone has been prohibited entry into Russia but enters the country through whichever means, this would be a liable offence.
We propose amendments to the Code of Administrative Liability making it possible to extend deportation and entry prohibition periods for people who have repeatedly violated our laws and for those who have been deported from the country by court order. All of the different aspects here have been taken into account.
Registration of our own citizens is a more complicated matter. This is a matter that requires our colleagues in the relevant services to make amendments to the Housing Code, for example, concerning residency rules.
Vladimir Putin: We discussed the possibility of introducing criminal penalties for repeated flagrant violation of the registration rules.
Konstantin Romodanovsky: We are working on these proposals. The coordination and approval process is underway. We have had some differences with our colleagues here and it is not an easy process, but I think we will get everything completed.
Vladimir Putin: I do not really understand. Which colleagues are you talking about exactly? Say specifically, who has objections and on what grounds. We need to hear all of the different points of view in order to make a balanced final decision. We are talking after all about the social wellbeing of a large section of our population. On the one hand we have many people living in the big cities, and on the other hand, there are other citizens who are not violating any rules and laws and have the freedom to move from one place to another and live where they choose as citizens of the Russian Federation, and we must respect everyone’s rights here. Of course it is no easy task to regulate this area, but we cannot leave everything in its current state because it is absolutely obvious that the instruments at our disposal are not working properly. We have already discussed this matter.
Konstantin Romodanovsky: Yes, Mr President. We are limited here by the rule that gives foreign citizens the right to remain freely in the Russian Federation for 90 days.
Vladimir Putin: We are talking not only about foreign citizens but about our own citizens too.
Konstantin Romodanovsky: We cannot apply to our own citizens conditions that would be any worse than those applying to foreign citizens.
Vladimir Putin: Of course not, and there is no need to do so.
Konstantin Romodanovsky: If we want to have registration rules that more clearly tie registration to a particular place of residence, we need to introduce some kind of rules regulating obtaining residency. We do not have such rules as yet. There is the Constitutional Court ruling that restricts us in that we cannot…
Vladimir Putin: There is no restriction in that ruling. You might have guessed that I have consulted with the experts, including those who work together with the Constitutional Court. You have the legal grounds at your disposal for introducing tougher rules, and this is something that needs to be done. But this must be done publicly of course. Issues such as migration laws and all changes in this area should be decided only after thorough discussion with the public organisations and the public in general. I therefore ask you to speed up work on these proposals and then make sure that they are published online and go through a thorough and active public discussion. This means discussion not just with the Public Council and the Duma deputies, but also with public organisations, including groups representing the different ethnic communities.
Konstantin Romodanovsky: Yes, Mr President. This is basically the way we worked when drafting the Concept. We had a broad panel of experts involved in the work on this document and we also received positive evaluations from the International Labour Organisation, the International Organisation for Migration, and the World Bank. We published the document on our website and received feedback through this channel too. We will continue to work in the same way.