Sunday, May 22, 2011

Let my people go!

Article 13(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that
Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

During the cold war this article was breached regularly by Warsaw Pact countries, the symbol of which was the Berlin Wall, constructed to stop the people of East Germany from escaping to freedom.  Even in our day, some countries deny their residents the right to leave.  You're probably thinking of the likes of North Korea, Cuba etc.  Unfortunately Moldova is also in the list of those who are serial breachers of the right to leave.

I'm not talking about citizens, who have the right to come and go as they please.  I'm talking about Moldova's permanent residents - citizens of other countries who have made their home in Moldova.  They're not a big group and hence they don't have much of a voice, which is why I am choosing to raise this issue on their behalf.

Permanent residents are subject to annex no. 2 of Government decision 376 of 6 June 1995.  Point 11 of the annex requires people in this category to obtain an 'entry-exit visa' in order to leave the country.  In other words, the Moldovan Government gets to decide whether or not a permanent resident can leave the country. This is a clear breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as quoted above (and note that Article 4 (2) of Moldova's constitution says that the UDHR takes precedence over national law).

Some will of course say that entry-exit visas are required to control crime.  What if a permanent resident committed a crime and he/she was able to leave the country?  This argument is, of course, a nonsense, as judges and border guards have the power to issue injunctions to stop suspects crossing borders whether or not they have visas, and regardless of their status relative to the Moldovan state (citizens, residents or visitors).

Entry-exit visas serve no useful purpose.  They are a relic of the old Soviet control mentality and a breach of fundamental human rights.  They must go, and soon.

By the way, as well as removing the visa requirement, there are a couple of other oddities in this order that need to be addressed:

  1. There is currently no mechanism by which a permanent resident can renounce their status.  Sometimes people who are resident emigrate, and they need to be able to cancel their residence with a minimum of fuss.
  2. In a normal country, the authorities wouldn't batt an eyelid at the expiry of a permit.  It would simply be taken as an implicit request by the holder to discontinue their residence.  In Moldova, however, a resident who doesn't renew his/her permit commits an offence under the law, and that's stupid.
The good news is that decisions of Government such as this one can be replaced / updated very easily, without having to go through a parliamentary process.  There is therefore no excuse for leaving Decision 376 of 6.6.1995 unamended.

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