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Monday, September 25, 2023
BUENOS AIRES , Feb 16 2023 (IPS) - They began to arrive en masse in Argentina in the second half of 2022, a few months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They are pregnant Russian women who land in the capital to give birth, with the hope of gaining an Argentine passport, given the fact that so many countries refuse to let in people with Russian passports today.
Authorities are investigating whether they are the victims of scams by organizations holding out false promises.
“Of the 985 deliveries we attended in 2022, 85 were to Russian women and 37 of them were in December. This trend continued in January and so far in February,” Liliana Voto, Head of the Maternal and Child Youth Department at the Fernández Hospital, one of the most renowned public health centers in the Argentine capital, located in the Palermo neighborhood, told IPS.
“Some come with an interpreter and others use a translation app on their phones. We do not ask them how they got to Argentina, but it is clear that there is an organization behind this,” added Voto.
In this South American country, public health centers treat patients free of charge, whether or not they have Argentine documents.
The issue exploded into the headlines on Feb. 8-9, when the immigration authorities detained six pregnant Russian women who had just landed at the Ezeiza international airport, on charges of not actually being tourists as they claimed.
The six women filed for habeas corpus and on Feb. 10 a federal judge ordered that they be allowed to enter the country, after some of them spent more than 48 hours on airport seats.
The ruling handed down by Judge Luis Armella stated that the authorities’ decision not to let them into the country put the women in a vulnerable situation that affected their rights “to proper medical care, food, hygiene and rest,” and said he was allowing them into the country to also protect the rights of their unborn children.
In addition, the judge ordered a criminal investigation into whether there is an organization behind the influx of pregnant Russian women that is scamming them or has committed other crimes. The results of the investigation are sealed.
On Feb. 10, shortly after the court ruling was handed down, 33 Russian women who were between 32 and 34 weeks pregnant arrived in Buenos Aires on an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa. (There are no direct flights between Russia and Argentina.)
As reported by the national director of the migration service, Florencia Carignano, in 2022, 10,500 people of Russian nationality entered Argentina and 5,819 of them were pregnant women.
The immigration authorities carried out an investigation in which it interviewed 350 pregnant Russian women in Argentina. They discovered that there is an organization that “offers them, in exchange for a large sum of money, a ‘birth tourism’ package, and gaining an Argentine passport is the main reason for the trip,” Carignano tweeted.
“Argentina’s history and legislation embrace immigrants who choose to live in this country in search of a better future. This does not mean we endorse mafia organizations that profit by offering scams to obtain our passport, to people who do not want to live here,” she added.
Under Argentine law, foreign nationals who have a child born in Argentina are immediately given permanent residency status, in a process that takes a few months. To obtain citizenship, they have to prove two years of uninterrupted residence here, in a federal court.
“Becoming a citizen is a difficult process that takes many years. If the organizations promise Russian women a passport in a few months, they are lying or there is corruption behind this,” Lourdes Rivadeneyra, head of the Migrant and Refugee Program at the National Institute against Discrimination (INADI), told IPS.
Rights in Argentina
“One thing are human trafficking networks, which make false promises in exchange for large sums of money, and another thing is the rights of women to enter Argentina and have their children here. They are victims,” Christian Rubilar, a lawyer for three of the six women who were held in the Ezeiza airport, told IPS.
Rubilar pointed out that the constitution guarantees essential rights “for all people in the world who want to live in Argentina.” He added that the country’s laws do not mention “false tourists”, and that therefore the immigration office exceeded its authority by denying them access to the country.
Argentina received different waves of European migration from the end of the 19th century until the middle of the 20th century. This created a culture of respect for the rights of immigrants among citizens and in the country’s legislation, which see Argentina as a land that welcomes foreigners in trouble, such as Venezuelans who have arrived in large numbers in the past few years.
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, hundreds of thousands of people have fled Russia, in what has been described by some as a third historic exodus, after the ones that followed the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989.
Although there are no official figures, recently the English newspaper The Guardian estimated that between 500,000 and one million people have left Russia since the beginning of the war. Many leave out of fear of being sent to the front lines, or because they are in conflict with the government or due to the consequences of international economic sanctions on the country.
As can be quickly verified in an Internet search, there are organizations operating in Argentina that promise Russian women who give birth in this country that they and their husbands can quickly obtain citizenship here.
“Give birth in Argentina. We help you move to Argentina, obtain permanent residence and a passport, which gives you visa-free entry to 170 countries around the world,” announces the RuArgentina website, which offers a package that includes accommodation in Buenos Aires, medical assistance, the help of a translator and aid in applying for documents, among other services for pregnant women.
The founder of RuArgentina is a Russian living in Argentina, Kirill Makoveev, who said in an interview on TV that “there are a variety of reasons why our clients come to Argentina: some want a passport because the Russian passport is toxic now. So we explain that the constitution and immigration laws here allow you to obtain a passport without breaking the law.”
The Russian Embassy in Buenos Aires did not respond to IPS’s request for comments, but the pregnant women have not been defended by the Russian community in Argentina.
“They are not coming to Argentina as immigrants, to work and seek a better future, as many Russians did in different waves of immigration. They are coming in order to use Argentina as a springboard to go to Western European countries or the United States,” Silvana Yarmolyuk, director of the Coordinating Council of Organizations of Russian Compatriots in Argentina, which brings together 23 community associations from all over the country, told IPS. .
Yarmolyuk, who was born in Argentina and is the daughter of a Ukrainian father and a Russian mother, said that the Russians who are coming to Argentina now are people of certain means who are taking advantage of Argentina’s flexible immigration policies.
“Just the ticket from Russia to Argentina costs about 3,000 dollars,” she said. “The danger is that this exacerbates the spread of Russophobia, which hurts all of us.”
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