Tens of thousands more Armenian citizens have been banned from reentering Russia in the last few months for allegedly violating Russian immigration rules, a senior government official in Yerevan said on Friday.
The bans stem from last year’s toughening of residency requirements for foreigners working in Russia. According to Armenia’s State Migration Service, they were enforced against more than 30,000 Armenians as of October.
The head of the service, Gagik Yeganian, revealed that another 20,000 or so Armenians have been included on the blacklist since then. He said as many as 150,000 other migrants remaining in Russia may also not be allowed to go back in case of leaving the country.
Yeganian said that the blacklisting has accelerated since Armenia completed its accession to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) on January 2.
The Russian government eased this summer some of its immigration rules for Armenian nationals because of their country’s impending entry into the bloc. The EEU commits member states to opening their labor markets to each other’s citizens.
Over the past several months, thousands of Armenians unable to return to Russia have asked the State Migration Service to help remove them from the blacklist. The agency forwards their written applications to Russia’s Federal Migration Service (FMS). In Yeganian’s words, only one in five such requests are granted by the FMS.
“Every day 50 to 60 citizens appeal to our service,” the official told a news conference. “Apart from that, we also get applications from regional administrations.”
Many of the applicants are keen to reunite with their families remaining in Russia. Artak Davtian, a Yerevan resident who has for years worked in Russia, left behind his wife and two small children when he travelled to Armenia on a short trip last year. “They are struggling to get by without me,” Davtian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He said he has so far failed to a find a well-paid job that would allow him to support his family in Armenia.
Seda Arzumanian, a middle-aged woman, lived in Moscow with her son, daughter-in-law and grandchild. “This is unfair,” she said of the Russian ban. “I have never broken a law or been fined in Moscow.”
According to the FMS, around 500,000 Armenian citizens lived in Russia as of November 2013. Hundreds of thousands of other Armenians are believed to have obtained Russian citizenship over the past two decades. Annual multimillion-dollar remittances from them help to support a considerable part of Armenia’s population.