PDA

View Full Version : 16-hour Detainment at Domodedovo



jl321
27-06-2005, 17:08
This is a long read, but if you are up for some ridiculousness read on:

I have temp residency in Russia and recently returned to Domodedovo from a vacation. It was the fourth time I left Russia and returned since receiving temp residency. Each time I leave I have to get a single use exit/entry visa from Central Ovir. Each time I have used this temp resident visa passport control has gotten confused, but prior to this time they let me in after checking with a supervisor. This time they did not.

The girl looked at my documents, turned to the person at the next window and asked, "what did they tell us this morning about these temporary residency visas?" The other person said she didn't remember either and she should go ask their supervisor. She came back a few minutes later and said I needed to come with her.

My wife and I were escorted to the supervisor's office. The supervisor said that my visa was not valid. She was so confusing we couldn't make sense of what she was saying (not because if the language either). Eventually we understood that according to her the laws regarding temporary residency changed on June 15 and a different visa was now required. We pointed out that we left the country on June 12 and it was now June 19 so there was no way for us to know this. She replied "it was on the news." Getting mad I yelled that it wasn't on the news IN GREECE!

I asked why I was allowed to leave on June 12 without a word said to me if the law was changing before my return. She said they had no idea themselves and they were just informed on June 15. She claimed to understand it was a difficult situation and there was no way I could have known, but the law was the law and I no longer met it.

At this point I demanded to speak to someone who spoke English. I was too tired and too mad to try to continue fighting in Russian. We were taken to the "Consular on Duty." Although he claimed to speak English on his resume apparently, he did not. We went back and forth with him for a while and he kept repeating the same things we had already heard. He was clear that I was being denied entry to Russia. I asked what was next and was told I would be put in a locked room until the next flight back to the airport I came from by the airline that I arrived on, which was the next afternoon. The room was said to have a toilet, a couch, and currently housed an Azerbaijani, a Georgian, and a Cuban. (I know there is a joke in that somewhere!)

Not sure what to do, I called the US Embassy and got an "officer on duty." Basically I was told it was late on a Sunday night and I should really try back at 09:00 when they opened for business.

The Consular on Duty insisted he didn't have the authority to make a decision on this matter and he would have to detain me while I waited for the next flight back to Greece. I pointed out that I was not a citizen or resident of Greece and there wasn't even a Russian embassy on the Island of Crete as far as I knew, so I should be sent to my country of citizenship if I was refused entry to Russia. He said that according to the Hague Convention I was to be sent back to where I came from. After some comments on my part with decreasing politeness, the Consular kicked us out of his office and we went back to where we started.

The very unpleasant woman that started it all (the supervisor) told me to give her my passport because they hold all passports of detainees. I insisted that since I was denied entry to Russia they had no claim to my passport. She said if I refused to give it she would call guards to remove it from me. I told her to call whoever she wanted, but I was not giving it to her. We stood for 20 minutes at a stand still while a guard was called. Finally a guy came and asked to see my passport. I refused and he said he needed to check it in order to try to solve this situation so I reluctantly gave it to him and he took it away. I accused him of forcibly taking it and he said he didn't forcibly remove it from me. I explained it was taken against my will and under threat, which was the same thing.

I let the US Embassy know that my passport was taken from me and they insisted on knowing the name, badge number, title, and contact info of the person holding US government property. However, the guy refused to take my phone and talk tot eh embassy. He was a real ass and refused to give this information to me. He finally gave his name and said that he was the "boss of the department." He refused to give any more info and said we knew all we needed to know.

Because we fought for so long, they agreed to let me into the transit area instead of the holding cell with the others. They said the main consular would be in at 09:00 and he would review the case. At that point my wife and I shuffled some luggage in case I was really sent back to Greece. My wife pointed out that we hadn't even had dinner and that I needed to eat. They said they would bring me dinner, told her she had to leave, and escorted me to the transit area.

I was then taken to the small transit area. The guy that escorted me handed me a dirty plastic bag and said it was my dinner. I opened the bag and found a couple stale pieces of bread and four plastic plates. Two of the plastic plates had a glob of rice and a cutlet on them with the other two plastic plates simply turned upside down as covers. Since they were not secured in any way, they slipped off and the rice and cutlets were actually just in the bottom of the bag and no longer on plates. There was no beverage in the bag and the beverage vending machine in the area was out of order.

I sat in anger all night. At 08:30 my wife returned to the airport, but they would not allow her to get to me. After pleading with a woman guard she was finally allowed a couple minutes of access to me. The amazing thing is that they never checked her passport, never checked the bag she was carrying, or made her go through x-ray. How is that for security!

At 09:00 I started calling the US Embassy. The next four hours were a flurry of phone calls back and forth with the embassy, my wife, and a lawyer. It was also full of a lot of waiting. In the 16 hours I was detained not one person ever came to tell me what was going on or checked to see if I was ok or needed anything - not even water.

Recall that the reason I was being denied entry was that there was a supposed law change on June 15. However, no one could find any law change at all. The US Embassy eventually got to the top guy in charge of passport control in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Even he insisted that nothing had changed since the latest version of the law dated June 9, 2003 and that my visa was 100% valid. He couldn't figure out what the problem was either.

Finally at 13:30, shortly before the flight they planned on putting me on left, they came to get me. I convinced them to let my wife in to help translate (again no security check). The border control person said "only because the US Embassy requested assistance from the head of passport control are we going to make a huge exception and allow you to enter Russia." I replied that "the only reason is because the head of passport control said YOU WERE ABSOLUTELY WRONG!" She didn't like that comment or my tone. My wife demanded to see this so called new law in writing. The woman said ok and showed her a piece of paper. This piece of paper was not on official letterhead and simply had "Формулировка" at the top. Below that was the date June 17, 2005. We were only able to read "in accordance with M-VI visas under law #43 dated June 9, 2003..." before it was snatched away. We insisted on a copy but were told it was an "internal document" and we could not have one.

So we insisted again that they explain what was wrong with my visa. The woman said that it had to be a single entry visa. I pointed out to her the line showing a single entry visa and asked what else was wrong. She said that it had to be an exit/entry visa combo. I showed her that it was indeed such a visa with the exit part being used when I exited and the remaining part said entry. I asked what else was wrong. She said the visa had to be obtained in Russia and not from an embassy. I answered that I obtained it at Central Ovir and cited the address. I asked what else was wrong. She said the purpose stated on it had to say "exit/entry." Mine said "temporary residency." She seemed very pleased with this discovery and acted as if I personally made such a terrible mistake. With that I asked if she thought I prepared the visa myself? She was silent so I pointed out that I did not and that it was prepared by Central Ovir. We could see that we were on the verge of not getting my passport stamped and getting me deported after all so we stopped arguing long enough to get the stamp. As soon as I did we started fighting more. That lead to security telling us we had to leave the area, the woman going away, and us not being able to follow her.

As far as I can piece together, on June 17 they apparently had an internal memo relating to this type of visa and it caused confusion. There was no change in any law.

The next day after all of this the woman that handles visas from work just happened to go to Central Ovir for another reason. She asked the clerks there if they had heard about what happened the day before. They said they all heard about it. When she told them that it happened to someone from her company they told her to go upstairs to the boss. She did and he told her he knew all about it, as there was many phone calls regarding it. He said that my documents were 100% in order and that the people at border control simply made a huge mistake. She asked how this could be fixed so that it doesn't happen again and his reply was that it could not because the border control people were idiots! He said he couldn't do anything about it because they fell under a different department.

Да вот так!

moscowmail
27-06-2005, 17:19
Hmm, I am sorry for your bad experience, answer one little question, were you rude and angry to them at the start? shouting and stuff?

Shaun
27-06-2005, 17:42
christ, what a bloody nightmare!

jl321
27-06-2005, 17:43
Nah - I was calm and polite at first. From past experience I knew they were always confused by the temporary resident visas and I never thought it would turn into such a big deal. As the hours went by my demeanor got worse and worse.

moscowmail
27-06-2005, 17:45
Nah - I was calm and polite at first. From past experience I knew they were always confused by the temporary resident visas and I never thought it would turn into such a big deal. As the hours went by my demeanor got worse and worse.

Sorry for ya, but hey, this is Moscow, not some third world country like the US or something ;)

I amn going through the dOM ON Friday, I will kick their a$$es for ya

kilam
27-06-2005, 18:22
Feel sorry for you.I am always dreading that something like
this may happen to me.My company is pretty good and takes care of the paper work.We operate in more than 90
countries so experience helps.I still get annoyed when some of the women at the airport give me dirty looks as if
I was entering Russia illegally.I think they don't like the look of me being British but of asian origin.I have worked in several countries without any problems.Sometime
I think I made a big mistake transferring to Moscow.Hopefully I will be able to get a transfer somewhere
else in another year's time.

tgma
28-06-2005, 09:16
Thanks for the information - yet another reason why I don't think I will be applying for temporary residency any time soon, although I should get it automatically. I don't know if it crossed your mind to offer a bribe, but well done for standing your ground, and for demanding your rights. This is the only way that the bureaucrats will ever take any notice of the ordinary people, instead of passing self-serving sub-legal acts. You can imagine that someone at the border guards has a lot of explaining to do to their management, and maybe, just maybe, they will think about implementing a rational system. All part of the slow process of building a civil society.

And kudos to the US Embassy for going into bat for you.

Kilam - I can imagine how you feel. The Russians are deeply racist to anyone who is not white, and this is a problem that will not go away soon. However, I suspect you have a different status here, (i.e., no temporary residency) so you are less likely to fall under this kind of problem. There are also a lot more people in your situation, so you are more likely to just be part of the crowd, and not singled out for special treatment. Temporary residency is a relatively new thing for the Russians, so the system is having a lot of problems dealing with it.

I would love to see the Moscow Times picking up on this - they are normally quite good about running with stories that have to do with new visa regulations.

Ghost
28-06-2005, 09:20
Sorry for your experience, but this place is a zoo - it doesn't surprise me.

jl321
28-06-2005, 09:54
I don't know if it crossed your mind to offer a bribe, but well done for standing your ground, and for demanding your rights.

I would love to see the Moscow Times picking up on this - they are normally quite good about running with stories that have to do with new visa regulations.

I had absolutely no intention of paying a single ruble in bribe, but at one point I asked if this could be solved any other way in hopes they would ask me for one. Their response was "like how?" I just shrugged my shoulders and they dropped it.

As for the Moscow Times, I contacted them via email and got no response. I thought of calling them and still might, but I was disappointed by the lack of response to my email so I haven't made it a priority.

Vanilla
28-06-2005, 10:23
They detain not only foreigners. Once they found that I don’t resemble the picture in my passport and made me wait for the “photo experts” for several hours.

Ghost
28-06-2005, 10:53
Hah...photo experts. I love this place!

CaveMan
28-06-2005, 11:34
They detain not only foreigners. Once they found that I don’t resemble the picture in my passport and made me wait for the “photo experts” for several hours.

Just out of curiosity, what did the 'Photo Expert' did??

Looked at you and the photo and said 'Hmmmmm' and let you go???

You got to love this country !!! :happymad:

Vanilla
28-06-2005, 12:39
Just out of curiosity, what did the 'Photo Expert' did??

Looked at you and the photo and said 'Hmmmmm' and let you go???

You got to love this country !!! :happymad:


Well, it was quite an experience. The customs guy examined, measured, massaged and otherwise networked my face and compared it with the picture in the passport. Than he called for his colleague, another one and the whole concilium decided that it was not me in the passport. The senior guy who came later asked me the most bizarre questions, like what was my astrological sign, what’s my precious stone and all this voodoo crap. They let me out in 4 hours.

gregs
28-06-2005, 13:42
[QUOTE=Vanilla]Well, it was quite an experience. The customs guy examined, measured, massaged and otherwise networked my face and compared it with the picture in the passport. Than he called for his colleague, another one and the whole concilium decided that it was not me in the passport. The senior guy who came later asked me the most bizarre questions, like what was my astrological sign, what’s my precious stone and all this voodoo crap. They let me out in 4 hours.[/QUOTE

Hmmm, just out of curiosity; What is your astrological sign and precious stone :)

Vanilla
28-06-2005, 15:36
[/QUOTE Hmmm, just out of curiosity; What is your astrological sign and precious stone :)[/QUOTE]



curiosity killed a cat

CaveMan
28-06-2005, 15:59
Well, it was quite an experience. The customs guy examined, measured, massaged and otherwise networked my face and compared it with the picture in the passport. Than he called for his colleague, another one and the whole concilium decided that it was not me in the passport. The senior guy who came later asked me the most bizarre questions, like what was my astrological sign, what’s my precious stone and all this voodoo crap. They let me out in 4 hours.

Absolutely amazing......

So if they decided that you are not the same as the pic, why did they let you go??

Maybe the answer to precious stone was diamond, then they decided that you must be a woman and therefore pic's sex matches you...arghgh I give up... :rolleyes:

Ghost
28-06-2005, 16:16
It's my belief that the reason why so many stories involving the Russian authorities end so strangely and bizzare, is because the authorities begin by asking, what they believe, to be really important questions to security or the law, and then - somewhere along the way - get the realization of just how stupid and absurd they are being. They then try to get out of it without losing face, which includes making up a ridiculous set of directives for the harrassed person to follow. This, in turn, is an attempt to try to confuse the victim with formalities that - in the end - only serve to make the authorities look even more like the jackasses they are.

That's my theory.

Braders
28-06-2005, 23:51
They detain not only foreigners. Once they found that I don’t resemble the picture in my passport and made me wait for the “photo experts” for several hours.

I had a similar experience but it was very brief (10 minutes stood at the booth)

Me 'What's the problem?'
Officer 'The photograph in your passport doesn't look like you'
Me 'You know it's a Ten year passport, that was issued in 1994 don't you?'
Officer 'Yes, but the photograph still doesn't look like you'
Me 'That's because i was 23 years old in 1994 and now i'm 32 years old, eh!!'

What a muppet!

moscowmail
29-06-2005, 08:45
I had a similar experience but it was very brief (10 minutes stood at the booth)

Me 'What's the problem?'
Officer 'The photograph in your passport doesn't look like you'
Me 'You know it's a Ten year passport, that was issued in 1994 don't you?'
Officer 'Yes, but the photograph still doesn't look like you'
Me 'That's because i was 23 years old in 1994 and now i'm 32 years old, eh!!'

What a muppet!


Wow, I had the same at Sherry just last week, he actually said to me, you are very fat now, your picture not... why??? WHAT....

jl321
29-06-2005, 09:25
It's my belief that the reason why so many stories involving the Russian authorities end so strangely and bizzare, is because the authorities begin by asking, what they believe, to be really important questions to security or the law, and then - somewhere along the way - get the realization of just how stupid and absurd they are being. They then try to get out of it without losing face, which includes making up a ridiculous set of directives for the harrassed person to follow. This, in turn, is an attempt to try to confuse the victim with formalities that - in the end - only serve to make the authorities look even more like the jackasses they are.

That's my theory.

Right on! I have the same theory. Only I think the root of the problem is that no one can understand the laws in the first place, which is why they realize their questions seem so stupid and absurd.

CaveMan
29-06-2005, 10:10
Right on! I have the same theory. Only I think the root of the problem is that no one can understand the laws in the first place, which is why they realize their questions seem so stupid and absurd.

I think apart from the understanding bit, they change the laws so often whenever suits them is the problem.....

CaveMan
29-06-2005, 10:11
Wow, I had the same at Sherry just last week, he actually said to me, you are very fat now, your picture not... why??? WHAT....

Diet maybe???? :suspect:

Don't hit me too hard, OK??

kazachka
29-06-2005, 11:04
Hmmm I had a prob with my passport pic in the US but not here. Security in Anchorage at first insisted it wasn't me. When getting my boarding pass for Moscow in Atlanta-same thing, the woman thought it was not my pic. Same thing happened when I was boarding the plane. My pic is only 2 yrs old but all you see are short, boy-cut looking bangs and it looks like I have a short haircut. You just can't see long hair in the back. Well, the bangs have been grown out and I was wearing my glasses because flying for 2 nights in contacts just sucks. When I got to Moscow, I expected I may be hassled and took off my glasses at the booth and didn't get any crap. That's the pits about the 16 hr detention, but I'm glad to see the authorities proven WRONG:)

Kingwillhe
29-06-2005, 11:46
Right on! I have the same theory. Only I think the root of the problem is that no one can understand the laws in the first place, which is why they realize their questions seem so stupid and absurd.
Right. We are all victims of the system periodically, even my wife who is Russian. I try to play along and find the humor.

Some day (start laughing here) there will be no hassles and we won't have any interesting stories to tell. :rules:

DPG
29-06-2005, 12:11
he actually said to me, you are very fat now, your picture not...

This picture, I've got to see!!:p

jl321
29-06-2005, 12:45
Right. We are all victims of the system periodically, even my wife who is Russian. I try to play along and find the humor.

Some day (start laughing here) there will be no hassles and we won't have any interesting stories to tell. :rules:

Had it maybe been a couple of hours only I could have tried to find the humor in it. However, 16 hours goes beyond being an interesting story and just becomes painful.

The worst part is that essentially there is no recourse whatsoever.

resident
01-07-2005, 18:41
what a farce. every time i go through passport control i get the same questions about my visa (temp. resident). No-one in that branch seems to have been trained up at all. I think it all started (optimist) when the "war on terror" started and everyone realised that in most countries the authorities don't actually know how many (and which) foreigners are in the country at any one time - interestingly this includes the UK where theforeign secretary was quoted as saying he's "no idea" how many foreigners are in the UK !

So they put this new residence package together, interestly forcing CIS citizens into the "foreigner" category together with many long-term expats who've married Russians. At the same time they pushed the citizenship rules on kids of non-russian parents.

I know some people at the immigration authorities and have seen the chaos there (one of the stupidest moments is the finger-printing, but lets save that one for another time). The moves seem to have some logic behind them, they're just completely incompetently carried out. Consiracy theorists will claim this is a stroke of genius to create problems to solve ($$$)....

In any case its all a farce and a pain in the backside for us. As the story proves though, the more scandal created, the more feathers ruffled and more impact. I suggest we get together and use any one of these stories as a call for battle. I've had a lot of success with this approach before, you actually get a lot of respect and make some great contacts on your way too!

Some ideas:

* There's a thing called the visa committee at the European Business Association (& American Ch. of Comm ?), could they take this up ?
* Get your company to write to the OVIR & complain, asking for compensation (free visa for a year ?!;)

I may be over-optimistic, but it does work & is worth the effort.