Yelena came from Slavyansk to Sevastopol in early June, 2014. "It was Crimea where I had a lot of friends," - says the migrant. But to find accommodation for free even with the help of friends wasn’t possible. As a result, she found a small room in a communal apartment on the outskirts of the city. Price was 3000 rubles per month.
"It’s enough to survive. Only humanitarian aid helps. I go to a special place for migrants once a week. There I can get canned food, clothes, even make-up. All the rest is good; I’m getting used to the quiet life. I do not regret that I went there because I wouldn’t have survived. Though it’s not easy here, but quiet and safe. I try not to think about future now," - told Yelena to OstroV nearly two years ago.
Today migrants from Donbass are forced to work illegally in Crimea and the rate rose more than by 2 times. They get aid at best once a month. It is reduced to minimum: flour, sugar, buckwheat, rice, a couple of canned meat and packet tea, sometimes soap, underwear and second hand clothes.
Since the beginning of the military conflict in the East of Ukraine a lot of people have decided to leave it for Crimea. Firstly, the peninsula de facto became part of Russia and many decided to wait out the war "under the wing of the brotherly state." Secondly, it is quite calm and warm region. Thirdly, many had been in Crimea on vacation, so it was a familiar place for them.
In the summer of 2014 the residents of Donbass went to the peninsula basically to wait out the active phase of the ATO. They also wanted to have rest there as tourists. Then you could find a lot of stories in the social networks how "migrants" come in expensive cars with the Donetsk number plates and demanded discounts and "special treatment".
At first, several tent camps were built for migrants from Donbass (so were they called in Crimea) where local authorities gave the opportunity to live up to the beginning of the cold weather. They were also provided with humanitarian aid, food and clothing which locals brought.
But few places fo free settlement quickly ended and the flow of migrants from Donbass only increased. Therefore, at some point it was decided to send these people to other regions of Russia. "Local authorities" of Crimea received top secret order to limit the number of migrants from Donbass on the peninsula.
According to various sources, from 13.2 thousand (according to official information) to 30 thousand (in fact) migrants from eastern Ukraine live in Crimea now. All in all, in Russia there are more than one million people from the "south-east of Ukraine".
What status residents of Donbass can get in Crimea
Under Russian law, citizens of Ukraine may stay in Crimea without permits not more than 90 days within six months. The Russian government made an exception only for the residents of Donbass who can indefinitely prolong their stay.
"As of November 1st extension of stay will only be considered for citizens of Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine, 27 settlements identified by the Minsk agreements," - said the deputy head of the Department of Migration Registration and Visa Procurement of the DFMS of the Russian Federation in Moscow Gregoriy Mironov.
All residents of Donbass, who come to Crimea and are going to stay there for a long time, must be registered at the Federal Migration Service (FMS). Then they can:
Make a temporary residence permit (the document certifying the right of a citizen to be legally on the territory of the Russian Federation to obtain a residence permit);
Apply for and receive a patent for work which will be the legal basis for residence on the territory of Russia;
Apply for temporary asylum or refugee status;
Just "renew" migration card in the FMS, without any status.
As for the temporary residence permit (TRP), it functions on the quota principle in Russia. It means that each year they decide how many of these documents can be issued in each region. For example, in 2016 the quota for issuing TRP throughout Russia is 125 900 permits. Compared to last year their number has decreased by 25.3 thousand. With regard to Crimea, this year the quota is 1,900 permits.
It is worth noting that the TRP is issued for 3 years and after the expiration of this period it is not extended. Then you must either get a permanent residence permit or a patent for work.
To get TRP you need a local residence registration, so there are a lot of ads on the forums where migrants ask (and sometimes offer money) to register temporarily.
On May 1st, 2016 the Russian President signed the law on the simplification of procedures for obtaining a permanent residence permit for migrants, including from Ukraine. It is about foreigners who came to Russia in mass urgently, holding refugee status or TRP and become parties to the state programme which assist compatriots living abroad to migrate voluntary to the Russian Federation. Crimea is one of the few Russian regions which this programme doesn’t include in 2016.
Temporary asylum for migrants from Donbass can be provided in Russia up to one year, but an extension is possible. Ukrainian passport is taken away and a certificate for temporary asylum is issued. Crossing the border with such a document isn’t possible, therefore, it is not popular with the migrants from Ukraine who plan to return home.
Most migrants from Donbass try to get a patent for work in Crimea and to live on the peninsula on its basis. However, this procedure is paid and it will be discussed separately.
Those who could not "settle down" in Crimea in the above ways go back either to Ukraine or to other regions of Russia (usually remote).
Yelena from Slavyansk wanted to apply for temporary asylum at first, but when she learned that you had to give the Ukrainian passport away, she refused. "Still, I was born there, maybe I’ll go home to die," - she says today.
And while Yelena hasn’t decided in what status she wants to continue living in Crimea, she goes to the FMS once in 3 months and "extends" her residence.
Residents from Donbass face such accommodation problems in Crimea
The first problem migrants from Donbass face in Crimea is renting an acoommodation. It has recently become more expensive by several times. Renting an apartment on the outskirts of Simferopol today is more expensive than in a good area of Kiev. Local realtors also note that Crimeans are not eager to rent out houses and apartments to migrants from eastern Ukraine, some people refuse to do it completely.
"Migrants from Donbass are unwelcome guests for us. It is a fact that none of the realtors will be happy when they get to know that they have to find accommodation for them. Earlier we all didn’t get involved in searching accommodation for them as they constantly traded, cried, made us pity to get discount, to be treated in a special way and stuff like that. I think you know many cases when migrants from the East simply refused to pay after the first month or arranged "rookeries" – settled other people from Donbass. That’s why they have ill fame in Crimea," – said realtor Natalia from Sevastopol to OstroV.
Sevastopol, summer of 2014
Today the situation has changed a bit. Local residents and realtors are reluctant but still agree to rent out accommodation to migrants from Donbass. At the same time, they require some additional documents (except passports) which prove that they are in Russia legally. The advantage is the existence of a patent for employment or a certificate from the Migration Service.
At the same time, some landlords require residents of Donbass to pay deposit and write a variety of receipts that nobody else will be settled and so on.
The price in major cities of Crimea (Sevastopol, Simferopol, Yevpatoriya) start with 8-10 thousand rubles per room. You will be asked to pay at least 15-17 thousand rubles a month for a separate one-bedroom apartment. In small settlements, especially in villages, you can bargain to rent a house for 10 thousand, however, it may be a makeshift hut with outdoor toilet.
In June the tourist season begins in Crimea and many locals start to make money on renting out housing. Therefore, landlords, as a rule, evict tenants for summer. It is considered the most difficult period for those who take a long-term housing.
"This is a classic problem in Crimea, especially for those who rent an apartment near the sea. In May and June they begin to be resettled in remote areas. Accordingly, the prices go up. If in winter a "mediocre" apartment in a remote area of Sevastopol could be rented for 15 thousand rubles, today the owners ask from 25 000 and more for it. This price will remain until September-October, when the flow of tourists falls down. It also concerns migrants from Donbass. Some landlords don’t evict, but simply raise the price for the summer season. It is a common practice in Crimea," - says local realtor Natalia.
Yelena from Slavyansk rents a room in a communal apartment for 6 thousand rubles a month. This is more than half of her salary. She says she survives, but she can’t find a cheaper apartment.
"I know that many of the forced migrants from Donbass left, because at first they lived in tents and resorts and then they all were closed down. Some of the people I know went to Ukraine, settled there in a modular campus, receive some money and help, saying they are satisfied. Some people went to Russia, but to such regions that I even cannot pronounce their names. It seems they are well settled. At least, they do not go back, then they are all right. Only we left in Crimea, unneeded. It’s not Ukraine and not Russia yet. That's what happened," - she said and couldn’t help crying.
How forced migrants from Donbass are employed in Crimea
According to Russian law, all foreigners, including residents of Donbass who want to work officially in Crimea, must obtain a special patent.
Only Russian citizens, recognized refugees, who receive temporary asylum and those who apply for a temporary residence permit can work without a patent.
It’s not easy to get a patent. To do this, you need to indicate the purpose of the visit as "work" when you enter Russia. Otherwise, you may be refused to obtain a work permit. Those, who haven’t done it, go to the border, enter again and fill in a new migration card. There are even special "tours". It is not necessary to travel outside Crimea – to the Ukrainian border. It’s sufficient to got to the so-called "buffer zone" (between two checkpoints) and enter again.
Then, it is necessary to submit documents to the territorial body of the Federal Migration Service within 30 days from the date of arrival in the territory of Russia. If this deadline is broken, you are fined for 10-15 thousand rubles.
To obtain a patent you will need to undergo a medical examination (at your expense) and pass tests in the Russian language, history and basics of Russian legislation (also at your expense). According to various estimates, these procedures cost from 8 to 15 thousand rubles.
You will be allowed to work only in the region of the Russian Federation where the patent was issued. That is, having received permit to work in Crimea, you will not be able to go and get a job in other regions. And most importantly is that you will have to pay monthly for the patent. Each Russian region sets the mount separately. In Crimea you have to pay to 2.9 thousand rubles a month.
Many go for it, because getting a patent is the easiest and fastest way to stay legally in Crimea. The document also gives the right to apply for voluntary health insurance which provides free medical care.
In general, migrants from Donbass face employment problems. In Crimea the employment situation is close to catastrophic even without them. If you are not a military or highly-qualified expert, then finding a job with a decent level of income is very difficult. If you have a patent there will be no problems with employment, but we must bear in mind that you have to pay monthly installments. Given that migrants must also pay for housing, then not much is left. Therefore, most people prefer working illegally.
Residents of Donbass tend to be offered heavy and dirty work. In Crimea builders, porters, workers, sellers, drivers, managers (who receive a percentage of sales) are in demand. On average they are offered from 8 to 15 thousand rubles a month.
Yelena from Slavyansk decided that she could not pay every month nearly a third of her salary for the patent. Therefore, she works illegally. Her monthly salary is 10 thousand rubles. Given that the rent is 6000, only 4 000 rubles are left.
"I was lucky with the employer. I have been working in the same place since 2014 and they treat me well. I'm the only one who was allowed to work without a patent, although I understand that it is a violation of the law and they can be fined. Believe me, many residents of Donbass, not only in Crimea but throughout Russia, work like that, they can’t pay such money for the patent. Only wealthy people who have salaries of 15 thousand and more can afford that," - she said.
Medical care for residents of Donbass in Crimea
OstroV has already written about the new medical system in Crimea and how it became "free" for locals. Free medicine has become almost a myth for migrants from Donbass.
Compulsory health insurance was introduced in the annexed peninsula in 2014. All residents are required to obtain CHI (compulsory health insurance) which is issued free of charge. Under Russian law, the holders of this insurance are entitled to free medical care, as well as provision of medicines in hospitals throughout the Russian Federation. An employer pays monthly contributions from unified social tax for those who are formally employed, the state pays for the unemployed (pensioners, children, students).
Those migrants from Donbass, who received a patent for employment, temporary asylum, temporary residence permit or refugee status are issued CHI equally with all citizens of the Russian Federation.
At the same time, absolutely all foreign citizens are entitled to free emergency medical care (hospitalization for up to 3 days).
However, according to doctors, nobody follows it. At least, for free. All "non-citizens of Russia" are required to pay for certain services in hospitals and clinics. Not for an appointment, but at the for tests and procedures.
Those migrants who have not received the status, but simply prolong the migration card can forget about free medical care. They can’t even get a paid insurance. Therefore, they can only be treated in private clinics or due to making deals with doctors.
"Ambulances brought a child with temperature of 39 to hospital at night. We are told - there is no insurance, goodbye, treat as you want. Here (in Kerch) a baby was born, on the fifth day he fell ill with Botkin’s disease. It took us the whole day to hospitalize the baby. We have a terrible situation, meaning people have nowhere to be treated and work," - says an employee of the Kerch Staff to assist migrants and militias from the South-East of Ukraine Tamara Ovchinikova.
Yelena from Slavyansk says that she resorted to hospitals for medical aid only twice in two years. And she had to pay in "envelope" for doctor’s advice in both cases.
"My friend recommended me - also a migrant from Slavyansk. This is a public health center where they don’t charge much for an appointment without a compulsory health insurance. Appointments cost about 100-150 rubles, you can’t find cheaper. Tests don’t cost much too. I know that this clinic is very popular among the migrants. It is "the place" where you can be examined and treated for little money. There is no other way. Private clinics are very expensive, the price for an appointment is from 300 rubles and more," - she says.
Yelena is not going to return to Ukraine. She says there is nowhere to go. Despite the fact that Slavyansk was liberated by Ukrainian troops and now there is no shooting, Yelena is afraid to go there.
"I heard enough here what he Ukrainians are doing in Donbass and I don’t want to go anywhere. As long as I am allowed to live here, I'm not going anywhere. And if the situation is critical, I’ll think of it. To leave is always possible. I like life here. I have a stable work, friends, home. I love the warm Crimean climate and especially the sea. All that is above the politics for me. Do I feel as an unwelcome guest here? Rather yes than not, but it does not prevent me from living here," – she summed up.
Andrey Andreyev, OstroV