Mormon missionaries lose appeal in high court


by Mikhail Telekhov

RAPSI, 14 June 2017


The Constitutional Court of the Russian federation reviewed in open session on Wednesday an application from citizens of the U.S.A. [hereafter "applicants"] who are being deported from the country because they were registered not at the location of their rented apartment but at the location of the host party, the religious organization Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints," a RAPSI correspondent reports from the courtroom.


Judge-Rapporteur Konstantin Aranovsky introduced the reason for the appeal of Joseph Nefenoil Warden and Parker Drake Oldhem to the Constitutional Court of the RF. He explained that the applicants came to Russia as volunteers of a religious organization upon the invitation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that operates in Samara. Aranovsky said that the host ("receiving") party rented the apartment where the Americans settled, but in the migration account they placed them not at the place of residence but at the place of stay, the location of the church. As a result, agencies of migration control found in this a violation of the rules of migration legislation and filed materials in court, which sentenced them to a penalty of a fine of 2,000 rubles and administrative deportation beyond the borders of the Russian federation. The appellate instance upheld the decision and the appeal was denied, and therefore Warden and Oldhem appealed to the Constitutional Court of the Russian federation.


The applicants think that part 1 and point 2 of part 2 of article 20 of federal law 109, "On migration account of foreign citizens in the Russian federation," are imprecise in nature and provide law enforcement agencies "excessive freedom in interpretation of migration rules in holding the Americans accountable." In their opinion, an important role in interpretation of the challenged rules is played by article 2 of the aforementioned law, which gives in particular a definition of the concepts of "place of residence" and "place of stay," implying under the latter a residential location that is not a place of residence but also is the location of an institution or organization. The foreigners, as well as the party receiving them, considered that their temporary registration at the place of stay, that is, at the church's address, is legal and sufficient for complying with migration legislation. Thus they ask that the rules being challenged be found to be in violation of the constitution of the Russian federation.


All participants in the hearings are convinced that there are not in the challenged law any uncertainties and that its provisions fully accord with the constitution of the RF.


The authorized representative of the Russian State Duma in the Constitutional Court, Tatiana Kasaeva, explained the standards of federal law 109 in the presentation of the legislature. "The law says that in the event that a foreigner comes to Russia for a short time, then he should be recorded at the address of the host party, that is, at the place of stay, but if the foreigner resides temporarily or permanently in Russia, he should be recorded both at the place of stay and at the place of residence. The applicants are temporary residents and they did not fulfill the requirements placed upon them by the law," Kasaeva explained.


Her position was supported by representatives of other government bodies. Only Mikhail Krotov, the authorized representative of the president of Russia to the Constitutional Court, spoke in defense of Warden and Oldhem. "What should foreigners who come to Russia do? They should turn over their passports and migration cards to the host party, which in its turn should place them in the migration account. The receiving party should also specify the status of the guest, based on the goals of the invitation, and place him in the account by the place of stay only or by the place of stay and place of residence, especially since an apartment was rented for the applicants. But the challenged rules fully accord with the constitution of the Russian federation," Krotov said.


The publication of the ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Russian federation will be announced subsequently. (tr. by PDS, posted 17 June 2017)

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