Kazakhstan has adopted a law requiring citizens traveling within the country to register with local authorities if they remain in one locality for more than one month. Anybody found in violation of the law will first receive a written warning and then, if found to be committing the same offense within a year, a fine of around 30,000 tenge ($90).
Landlords renting out property to people without temporary registration will also face prosecution and fines of around 22,500 tenge, Nur.kz reported, citing the Interior Ministry press department.
The law enters into force on January 7 and is intended, according to its backers, to combat terrorism by keeping closer tabs of people’s movements.
Police have fended off criticism, saying the law brings Kazakhstan in line with accepted international practice.
The deputy head of the Interior Ministry’s migration department, Galina Sarsenova, has said the system would, in addition to providing another tool against terrorism, allow for an enhanced ability to monitor internal migration processes. That way, the authorities will be able to better understand where to concentrate efforts on developing labor markets, school, hospitals and other core utilities, Sarsenova said.
Kazakhstan already has a system of permanent registration — the propiska inherited from Soviet rulers and, before that, Tsarist Russia — but this incoming arrangement will be applied for relatively short-term stays.
The new law has been topic of lively discussion on social media. Several public figures have expressed indignation at the rules, which they say will complicate moving around the country. Some dwell on the culturally distinctive feature of Kazakh life, whereby people spend extended periods of time living with relatives in other towns and cities.
A lawyer with the Almaty City Bar, Dzhokhar Utebekov, described the law as nothing less than a return to serfdom.
“There will be police patrols asking newly arrived people to show their temporary registration. There will be curfew in action,” Utebekov wrote. “This is of course a flagrant violation of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the constitution and limits movement around the country. But who cares about that? Well at least the head of the migration police could boast that in the course of one year he fined 13,000 Kazakhstanis for not having their propiska. How many terrorists they found in that midst, they do not say. I am certain it was zero.”
Political analyst Talget Kaliyev was also perplexed by the new rules.
“Kazakhstan has cancelled visas for citizens of almost 50 countries, but it will penalize its own citizens for not having temporary registration. Why do we always do things to serve guests better? Maybe it would be good to bestow our own people with, if not ardent love and concern, at least with a bit of respect,” Kaliyev wrote on his Facebook account.
Much of the online commentary is in this spirit, with many considering the law punitive, senseless and designed to inconvenience only law-abiding citizens. On the contrary, while professional criminals will likely have little trouble circumventing such rules, others may have to resort to petty corruption, compounding an already existing scourge.