Over the past few months, more than 5,000 pregnant Russian women flew to Argentina to give birth there in order for their babies to be granted citizenship, officials reported.
Although this is not a new practice, since the war in Ukraine started last year, the country’s National Migrations Agency has detected “a significant increase in the entry of Russian citizens”, especially in recent months, the organisation’s director, Florencia Carignano reported on Twitter. Only on 9 February, 33 Russian women in their last weeks of pregnancy entered the South American country in one flight.
From these past 33 entries, three women were detained because of “problems with their documentation”. Three others who had arrived the previous day were also imprisoned, the BBC reported. They had falsely reported they were going to Argentina for tourist purposes, but “they did not come here to engage in tourism activities, they acknowledged it themselves”, Carignano told La Nacion.
The six women were not held long, however, following the surge in “birth tourism”, the migration agency has decided to be more vigilant and has, so far, interviewed about 350 of the women who were in advanced stages of pregnancy when entering the country. The country’s passport is “a privilege that we must take care of”, Carignano said.
The Argentinian passport is one of the strongest in the world, offering visa-free entrance to 173 countries. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many states have decided to halt issuing visas for Russian citizens. The EU suspended the visa facilitation agreement in September last year, meaning the process of obtaining a visa is now a lot longer and requires more documentation. Moreover, many of the Member States directly bordering Russia have stopped issuing tourist visas altogether. Currently, the Russian passport only grants visa-free access to 87 countries.
When the babies are born in Argentina, they are automatically granted citizenship. This then also facilitates the process for the parents to obtain citizenship. Following the interviews conducted by Argentina’s National Migration Agency, officials discovered that an organisation had been set up in Russia to offer “birth tourism packages” in exchange for large sums of money. These range from economy class, starting at $5,000, to first class, starting at $15,000. The website claims to be 100% Argentinian and says it has been offering the service since 2015.
“Argentina has a history and legislation that embrace migrants who choose to live in the country in search of a better future. This does not to allow profiting mafia organizations that offer packages to obtain our passport to people who do not want to reside in our country”, Carignano commented on Twitter.
The Migration Agency gave the collected information to a federal judge. As part of the investigation into birth tourism, police raids were carried out on Saturday on a network that allegedly provides pregnant Russians and their partners with fake documents, according to La Nacion. For obtaining the documents in record time, people paid up to $35,000. Although no arrests were made, several laptops and immigration papers, as well as large amounts of cash were seized.