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Activities of the High Commissioner to counteract the spread of coronavirus and protect human rights during the pandemic

22 May 2020
Activities of the High Commissioner to counteract the spread of coronavirus and protect human rights during the pandemic

1. Dynamics of appeals to the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation during the period of restrictive measures imposed in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic

Since March 27, 2020, a 24-hour hotline has been set up by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation. As at 15 May, 2020, 1113 complaints were received. The main growth rates occurred in the second half of April.

2. Work with complaints received by the High Commissioner’s hotline

For efficiency, a special chat is organized. In the chat, all the staff of the Office can see urgent complaints, which are remotely considered during the day and sent by e-mail to the competent authorities to take the necessary measures.

In a videoconference mode, meetings were held with Commissioners for Human Rights in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation.

Of the 1,113 applicants called the hotline, 306 were given clarifications; 677 letters were sent to the competent authorities.

3. Legal assistance by the High Commissioners for Human Rights in the Russian Federation

What is the legal assistance of the High Commissioner?
Firstly, the High Commissioner takes action to give impetus to the solution of a particular issue by:
— request direction;
— application filing;
— appeals;
— claims to other authorities.

Secondly, this is advisory assistance.

4. Subject of appeals to the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation

1) Lack of personal protective equipment (protective masks and antiseptic products) in pharmacies.

2) Inability to get tested for COVID-19 within walking distance, or inflated cost for this service.

3) Appeals on the refusal of ambulance workers to test citizens with signs of acute respiratory viral infection for COVID-19, delays in doctors’ visiting to homes during the pandemic progression.

4) Appeals from medical workers on the non-guaranteed salary increases in the form of salary supplements due to the participation in the fight against coronavirus.

5) Housing relations (rental payment, the legality of the landlord’s demand to vacate housing, etc.).

6) Violation of labor rights:

  • loss of earnings due to the suspension of employer’s activity;
  • non-payment of wages;
  • forcing to dismissal;
  • requirement to give up non-working days and perform employment duties at workplaces under the threat of dismissal.

7) Claims to the employment services, complaints about difficulties in obtaining unemployment status:

  • requesting certificates that cannot be obtained from the employer due to restrictions;
  • lack of technical facilities to register online;
  • inability to obtain the unemployment status for persons with the status of an individual entrepreneur despite the suspension of their activity;
  • small amount of payments received that does not correspond to those announced by the authorities;
  • inability to register due to the lack of a permanent registration.

8) Entrepreneurs' appeals:

  • appeals from persons who are forced to stop working as individual entrepreneurs;
  • appeals on difficulties of paying rent for premises while the activity is terminated;
  • appeals on complexity of doing business due to the implementation of a permit system.

9) Right to child benefit
Citizens received clarification, requests were sent to the competent authorities. None of the citizens were left without benefits and other measures of social support from the state.

10) Return of Russian citizens from abroad

  • return of Russian citizens from Thailand, Tanzania, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, India, and the USA;
  • return (detention) of Russian seafarers (11 crew members of fishing trawler "Danko" were quarantined due to coronavirus in the port of Alang, India; 14 Russian sailors were detained in the Hellenic Republic).

11) Departure of foreign and Russian citizens from the territory of Russia

  • foreign states do not want to admit their fellow citizens

(thus, Azerbaijani citizens cannot return to their homeland, because Russia was ready to open the border, but the Azerbaijani border was not opened. On April 17, the High Commissioner addressed Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman) of the Republic of Azerbaijan Sabina Aliyeva with a request to assist in opening the border at the Yarag-Kazmalyar automobile checkpoint to pass the citizens);

  • citizens of other states wishing to leave the territory of Russia spend several days and weeks at automobile checkpoints; States of nationality are ready to receive their citizens, but the Russian side does not let them through;
  • citizens of the Russian Federation who also have other citizenship or a residence permit or other valid document confirming the right to reside permanently in a foreign state wish for some reason to leave the territory of the Russian Federation, but the Russian side does not let them through;

(in response to the appeal from the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Altai Territory the request was sent to the Federal operational headquarters for the fight against coronavirus to consider the issue of restricting the right of a Russian citizen to leave to the Republic of Kazakhstan, in which he has a residence permit. The issue was resolved positively, in particular, the Government adopted the appropriate decision);

  • foreign citizens in temporary detention centers during the period prior to the enforcement of decisions on administrative expulsion, deportation, readmission (even if the Federal Bailiff Service officers have court decisions which have entered into force, they are not able to execute them, therefore migrants are held in temporary detention centers without understanding the terms of the enforcement of court decisions and return to their homeland).

12) Appeals from relatives of citizens held in places of detention (on protection against the spread of coronavirus infection in the penitentiary system, admission of lawyers and members of public oversight commissions to pre-trial detention centers, medical assistance, etc.).

13) Restrictions on freedom of movement, the establishment of a permit system for road transport and the suspension of enterprises and organizations (on the facts of administrative responsibility for violation of restrictive measures).

5. Examples of restoring and protecting the rights of people during the pandemic

Labour rights

In defense of the labour rights of more than 500 employees of JSC «Plyterra» from the Republic of Mordovia, the High Commissioner applied to the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation, as well as to the First Deputy Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation with a request to verify the received information and undertake prosecutorial response measures as necessary.

After prosecutorial investigation the factory suspended the work sending its stuff home with full salary.

(Constitution of Russia: the right to labour conditions meeting the safety and hygienic requirements (Art. 37, P.3), the right to rest (Art. 37, P.5))

5 thousand shift workers the Chayanginskoye Oil and Gas Field were not allowed to go home dealing with unsanitary conditions and the lack of protective equipment. In defense of their rights, the High Commissioner applied to the Yakut Commissioner for Human Rights. She clarified the situation and appealed to the competent authorities of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). An appeal was also sent to Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of Russia in the Far Eastern Federal District Yury Trutnev.

In May, a large-scale transportation of the shift workers to observation buildings of the Republic of Bashkiria began. More than 2,400 people were transported.

The right to protection against unemployment
(Constitution of Russia Art. 37, P.3)

Based on the analysis of complaints about the work of employment services, an appeal was sent to Minister of Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation Anton Kotyakov with a request to consider adopting additional measures to ensure the availability of federal social support for citizens who have lost their jobs and to improve the procedure of work provision by employment services.

Foreign citizens — migrant workers
(Constitution of Russia: the right to free travel, choice of place of stay or residence (Art. 27, P.1))

Due to restrictive measures, a conflict of interests arose — on the one hand, they could not move freely, and on the other hand, they had to come to the competent body to be registered or extend their residence permit.

Appeals were sent to the Ministry of Internal Affairs with a request to grant foreign citizens the right to apply for an extension of their residence permit after the restrictive measures are lifted, to refrain from applying state coercion measures against these foreign citizens for overstays.

Presidential Decree of April 18, 2020 No. 274 resolved the problem. Previous visas, residence permits, work permits, patents and other documents will be extended. Such citizens cannot be expelled from the Russian Federation, deported or transferred to a foreign state, deprived of refugee status or temporary asylum.

Measures taken to help Russian citizens return from abroad
(Constitution of Russia: the right to freely return to the Russian Federation (Art. 27, P.2))

By joint efforts of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Moscow Region and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation the rights of several thousand of Russian citizens stranded in the United Arab Emirates were protected. As a result of permission that provided five special aircrafts to the Emirates, thousands of compatriots were repatriated.

To protect the compatriots’ rights (about two thousand citizens) stranded at the Bangkok airport, the High Commissioner asked Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov, Head of the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare Anna Popova to take all possible measures to help citizens and return them to their homeland as soon as possible. There were many women and children. In order to return, they were offered to purchase expensive tickets, but citizens did not have enough money.

On April 7, 800 Russian tourists were taken out of Bangkok; Russian airlines «Aeroflot» carried out two flights to Moscow and St. Petersburg and another one to Novosibirsk. The situation is under control.

To be continued…

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