This project grapples with the question: how do economic migrants access justice and stand for their rights in Russia?
Migrants, primarily from post-Soviet countries of Central Asia, constitute a diverse group across many variables such as race, ethnicity, religion, legal status, acquisition of Russian citizenship. These workers, like the helots of ancient Greece - a methaphor originally developed by Robin Cohen (1988) - are found at the periphery of ‘regional political economies’ whilst becoming sucked into the vortex of the service, construction, trade or manufacturing industries. This project investigates a variety of their legal experiences as mediated by these different positionalities. It advances new theoretical perspectives on access to justice and provides a more nuanced evidence base for regional advancement of the rule of law.
The research paints a complex picture of how the immigration and refugee laws ‘work in practice’ in Russia as mediated by migrants’, refugees’ and legal professionals’ variety of legal experiences and positionalities.
The extensive fieldwork conducted over the course of 2014 in Moscow enabled to gather substantial material about (1) the black letter migration law in Russia and its enforcement, (2) the role of state institutions and NGOs in mediating the access to justice for migrants in Russia, and (3) the expectations, outcomes and consequences of a series of legal cases about migration and refugee issues at the different ‘corners’ in the Russian immigration and refugee justice system’ hierarchy – from the local Federal Migration Service offices, via the low level domestic courts and courts of appeal, all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.
Comparing the outcomes of Agnieszka's ethnographic study in Russia, with data collected earlier from western countries, the project questions whether what happens to migrant sand refugees in Russia is as much in contrast with the experiences of immigrants in European and America as many observes would tend to assume. It inspires a deeper reflection about the consequences of state produced labels such as ‘legal’, ‘illegal’, ‘civil’ and ‘criminal’ in migration law and the access of migrants to justice more generally.