On the 8th of February, six pregnant Russian women landed at Ezeiza airport in Argentina and were detained by authorities for not being tourists. This follows the recent explosion of Russian women flying to Argentina to give birth on the pretence of being tourists, whilst truly wanting to obtain Argentinian citizenship for themselves and child. The six women filed for habeas corpus and on the 10th of February, a federal judge ordered that they be allowed to enter the country, after spending more than 48 hours being detained in the airport. The judge, Luis Armella stated his decision was to protect the rights of their unborn children. He also commented that the “Authorities’ decision not to let them into the country put the women in a vulnerable situation that affected their rights to proper medical care, food, hygiene and rest”. In addition to this ruling, Armella ordered an investigation into whether there is an organisation facilitating and benefiting from Russian women entering Argentina. The results of this investigation will be sealed.
There are no direct flights between Russia and Argentina, so most of these women are arriving via Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa. The director of Argentina’s immigration service, Florencia Carignano, found that in 2022, 10,500 people Russian nationals entered Argentina. 5,819 of them were pregnant women. The immigration service conducted interviews with 350 pregnant Russian women in which they found there is an organisation that offers them, in exchange for a large sum of money, “birth tourism package”, with gaining an Argentine passport being the main reason for the trip. Authorities were previously concerned that criminal organisations were involved, profiting off and making false promises to vulnerable women. In Argentina, public health centres treat patients free of charge regardless of whether they have Argentine documents. The Fernández Hospital, in Buenos Aires, aided 37 Russian women to give birth in December 2022.
It is believed the main motivation for these women to travel to Argentinia to give birth is to obtain Argentine citizenship. Under Argentine law, foreign nationals who have a child born in Argentina are immediately given permanent residency status and after 2 years, citizenship. Argentinian passport holders are allowed to enter 171 countries visa free whereas Russians can only travel visa-free to 87 countries. Additionally, in September 2022 the visa facilitation agreement between the EU and Russia was suspended and stemmed the need for additional documentation, increased processing times, and more restrictive rules for the issuing of visas. The additional suspension of Russian tourist visas by all EU member states who border Russia has made travel very restricted for Russian citizens. When the freedom that comes with an Argentinian passport is coupled with the travel to many countries has become difficult or impossible for Russian citizens since the war started in Ukraine, it is clear to see why Argentinian citizenship is highly desirable for these women and their unborn children.
It is important that Argentinian migration authorities continue to investigate whether criminal organisations are profiting from “birth tourism” and if so, must apprehend those responsible. An estimated 500,000 to one million people have left Russia since the beginning of the war. With no end in sight to the conflict, we can expect to see more women choosing this route to acquire a better life for themselves and their child.
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