Let's make a reservation right away that a refugee from Donbass asked not to disclose his real name. Since 2014, the man has been living with his wife in a small village in the Irkutsk region. Now he is 40 years old. A couple of years ago they bought a house with a mortgage, last year they had a daughter.
The interlocutor's fears are caused, as he himself says, by the fear of being deported back to Ukraine. In 2014, he, the owner of a small business, crossed the border in what he was. The house in his native Kramatorsk was burned by “inadequate people in military uniform” (as he himself identifies them), not a single identity document was left on hand. For this reason, he fails to legalize in Russia, the FMS even requires a set of documents for the initial refugee status.
According to the man, in eight years he officially applied to the migration service in the Irkutsk region a couple of times, but both times the employees refused him, saying that they did not believe in history, they threatened to put him in an immigrant prison and then deport him to Ukraine. Even Russian roots did not help the cause. The man was born in Yakutsk in 1983, where he lived until he was two years old, after which his mother took him to permanent residence in Ukraine.
Twice the man paid intermediaries - lawyers who promised him to resolve the issue, but both times, having received the money, they disappeared.
- At that time I was 32 years old. I built a house in Kramatorsk. I worked there - I had my own company. Cargo transportation, two trucks and two fuel trucks. I managed to buy a franchise from Kyiv. You live your life, and here comes 2014. People in uniform with machine guns at the ready appear on the threshold, intimidate the family, force them to work for them. Well, that is, these people wanted to use my technique for their own purposes. They said, for example, you bring your ice cream-sausage, tell us the route in advance, and if we need to load something, then we load it. As far as I know, such proposals were then sent to the entire business, to everyone who had something to take from. After my refusal, they burned down my newly completed house. They were taken to the forest. The police were inactive, did nothing to help. After that, I made the decision to leave. First to Kharkov (but six months later it turned out that it wasn’t much better there either), and then to Russia, - says Artem A. *
In Kharkov, the man met his future wife, by that time she had also fled to Kharkov from Donetsk.
The girl's father spent some time working in Irkutsk and invited them to come to him, since there were "refugee quotas" in Siberia.
So the family ended up in Russia.
- By December 2014, the entire Donbass had already turned into a front. There were huge queues at the Kharkiv-Belgorod border. Many, like me, crossed the border in the same pants. They didn't even stop people. Russian border guards approached me and asked who I was and where my documents were. I replied that everything was on fire. You can say they waved their hand at me - they say, cross, and then sort everything out in Russia, - says the man.
Artem's wife received Russian citizenship in 2018 (she still has a Ukrainian passport and other necessary documents). After that, she was able to officially get a job in an advertising agency, and in 2020 the bank approved her a mortgage on a small house in a village in the Irkutsk region. In 2021, the couple had a daughter.
The man himself has been working all these years, wherever he has to. At construction sites, by courier...
Due to the lack of documents, unpleasant situations constantly arise with employers.
A man is not satisfied with an official job, and, knowing that a person is in an illegal status, some bosses throw money at him.
- For the same work from the whole team, they can only pay me half as much, because they know that I still can’t go to the police or the court, because the authorities also ask for a passport to register applications. Some companies even quit without paying anything. And if something disappears from the construction site, sneaks, the first thing they blame and interrogate me. And who else to think when here I am, an indistinct citizen, without a name, patronymic, without documents. It is very difficult to talk about all the difficulties that my wife and I faced. I remember how we fled from Ukraine, and how we already lived here in Russia for half a year with two packs of pasta, remained on the street in 42-degree frost after we were kicked out of a rented apartment. And all the humiliation of bosses and officials, - says the interlocutor.
In 2016, Artyom himself applied to the migration service with the question of obtaining official status in the Russian Federation.
- Employees of the migration police simply said that they did not believe that my documents were burned, that I generally came from Donbass. They said that if I was indignant, they would put me in a prison for illegal immigrants, I would sit there, and then I would be deported, - says the man.
All appeals to the police with requests to issue at least some temporary certificate confirming the identity were refused. The logic of official departments: first, permanent documents, and only then certificates for every taste.
For all the time of trying to legalize Artem wrote appeals to various public organizations. There, he was twice recommended lawyers who allegedly could "resolve the issue." The family scraped together a total of 120 thousand rubles for intermediaries (a lot of money for the province), however, having received a reward, the “recommended people” stopped communicating.
In the spring of 2022, the family contacted the Russian Bar Association "For Human Rights". Thanks to human rights activists, the man managed to restore a birth certificate through the registry office on the territory of the Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. After the Association filed appeals to various law enforcement agencies, the State Duma of the Russian Federation and the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, however, a paradoxical effect followed.
In addition to the many calls with offers of help, the existence of which you don’t even suspect, there were also those who Artem and his wife wanted to biasedly “check”.
- Firstly, people called, did not introduce themselves and stated in a very rude form that we are obliged, here we are directly obliged to appear at the appointed time and date at the specified address. The questions - who are you, where are you asking us to go, and most importantly why - did not answer. We scored the address on the Internet and only understood that we were being invited to the migration service. They didn't explain anything to us in the offices either. Fill out the forms with personal data and that's it! The dates on the questionnaires were forced to be left blank. They also asked me to bring two witnesses who would confirm that I have been in Russia since 2014. I brought my mother and a friend. What are these forms for, what are the witnesses for, what do I give in to in this way, what kind of procedure and when the result will be known - deathly silence. The silence has been going on for four months now ... They communicate as if we were nobody.
In recent months, employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Investigative Committee, and the FSB have also repeatedly declared to the house of the spouses. Conducted "tests". What exactly the spouses are suspected of, they were not really explained. But the search of the dwelling was carried out, and without presenting the relevant resolution.
- They said that the reason for the search was to check for involvement in terrorist activities. Looking for tattoos. They took saliva. Maybe ten times they took fingerprints, footprints. Photographed hundreds of times. They searched things, looked through computers, phones. Endless interrogations, explanations. All the time hinted at some further checks. “We will still find out why you actually came here,” the officers said. It's embarrassing to say little...
Of all the interrogators, only one young employee of the Investigative Committee expressed sincere sympathy to the family, says Artem:
- The employee said that all these checks are a paradox, and that sooner or later I should already be given refugee status. But even those who sympathize with us, in the end, do not help us. Of course, I'm tired of hiding, tired of being afraid, tired of being constantly accused of something. Either help to become a citizen of Russia, or kick me out, because this uncertainty kills.
Nevertheless, as our interlocutor notes, after the involvement of human rights activists, the case seems to have moved forward. However, the very process of acquiring Russian citizenship is multi-stage and not fast. First you need to get temporary asylum, then apply for refugee status, only then you can get a temporary residence permit, then a residence permit, and only then Russian citizenship and attached rights.
Novye Izvestia sent a request to the Main Directorate for Migration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia with a request to clarify the procedure for obtaining citizenship of the Russian Federation by refugees from Donbass who have lost their documents. After the seven days allotted by law, the editors did not receive an answer.
* The name of the hero of the publication has been changed at his request.
Chairman of the Russian Bar Association "For Human Rights" , human rights activist Maria Arkhipova (Bast):
- The flow of migrants from Ukraine to Russia after 2014 increased significantly - and these were no longer labor migrants, but really refugees, people who left everything and often in a hurry: their houses, farms, documents, many were left without money. Our client is one of many who came under pressure in the Donetsk region in 2014, so much pressure that he was barely able to cross to Russian territory. He lost his entire business and home (his home was literally burned down), even his passport number remained only in email correspondence. Further, since 2014, he lived in the Irkutsk region without documents. The person literally suffered from everything: he worked on the construction of houses - he might not be paid, but there are no documents, which means that such a person will not sue. Medicine - applied to hospitals, but no documents - no treatment. He also could not ask official institutions, even banks, for something. He was even able to get a birth certificate only this year, when his mother, who also fled from Ukraine, only to Europe, was able to enter Russia and go to the registry office for a certificate that her son was really born in Yakutia back in the Soviet years ! There simply wasn’t enough money to go to the Ukrainian Embassy in Russia in Moscow to try to restore Ukrainian documents. Now the man has passed the examination, the primary documents for the further issuance of a refugee certificate have been received, with them it is already possible to apply for a Russian passport. As for the refugee problem in Russia in general, since 2014 we have been processing about several thousand complaints from people every year. They call on all issues - starting with the fact that there is nowhere to spend the night, and ending with a request for help with payments for children. Someone is trying to find their own benefit, but there are those who just need life support - we take on those who need real help.