Ambiguous deportation orders

Informal practices in our material also related to the twofold use of deportation orders as components of the Russian migration policy and the Arctic route. Kubal (2019: 67-69) introduced Daniel Kanstroom's (2000) twofold model of deportation—that is, deportation as border control and deportation as social order. Whilst deportation as border control refers to ‘a consequence of a violation of the contract between the migrant and the host country as inherent to immigration law’, the social control model signifies a ‘method of control of the behaviour of non-citizens for their post-entry misconduct’ (Kubal 2019: 67-68). In the latter-case, a deportation order is typically issued by a court as a result of a non-citizen breaking the laws of the host-state territory. A deportation order carries both regulatory and punitive elements.

In the context of Arctic route migration, deportation orders certainly carried both functions. Most migrants entered Russia legally but ended up in the country as irregular migrants since renewing documents was exceedingly difficult, and they were often persecuted for different forms of misconduct whether they broke a law or not. For migrants, this control resulted in abusive and arbitrary encounters with the police or other authorities leading to a possible forced deportation, contributing to other daily insecurities.

Yet another understanding of a deportation order that was rather desirable consisted of an administrative procedure, allowing migrants to cross the border to Finland. Formally, a deportation order followed the usual procedures of justice. It was issued by local courts in Moscow or Murmansk as a result of breaking a law, typically overstaying a visa. In this case, both the deportation order and court procedures functioned as tools of the Russian migration policy and border governance, allowing migrants to leave whilst also restricting their return to the Russian Federation following departure. For immigrants and transit migrants alike, with or without a valid visa, this guaranteed them access across the Russian border to the Finnish border and increased their expectation of successful migration to Finland. The asylum interview with a 28-year-old Nigerian woman (as summarised by the interviewer) describes her journey across the Russian border checkpoint:

Went to the Nigerian embassy after about 6 years and got herself a passport. Next, she got the exit permit from authorities and paid the 5000-rouble fine. Flew from Moscow to Murmansk where the authorities questioned the applicant and checked the legality and authenticity of her documents. ‘They asked me where I was going, and I answered that I was going to Finland. ... At the border, the Russian authorities completed a security check and checked my documents, took away the exit permit at the last checkpoint. That is called a deportation order. If you did not pay, you could not get away.’ (Row 294)

Since travel was often organised by family members, and assisted by family members, smugglers and other intermediaries, migrants themselves were not necessarily aware of all of the required documents and procedures. In our materials, deportation orders were also referred to as ‘exit permits’, ‘exit passes' or, in some cases, ‘exit visas'. Interestingly, the deportation order and the officials organising those transformed from corrupt and something necessitating fear to supportive and purely administrative components of the process. The examples of the Nigerian woman above and of this 29-year-old Afghan man well illustrate this contradiction:

The Russian border authorities treated us ok even though we did not have a residence permit in Russia. In Moscow, we got a 5000-rouble fine for being in the country illegally and we were given a pass to exit the country by ourselves. (Row 222)

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