A cry from a polluted town in the Kemerovo region
As reported by RG.ru with a reference to the regional government, approximately 70 households of the Russian coal town of Kiselyovsk are promised a relocation after a group of its residents appealed to Justin Trudeau seeking for environmental refugee status in Canada.
On June 8, 2019, YouTube Channel Novosti Kiselyovska posted a video address of some local people to the Canadian Prime Minister and the UN Secretary-General. In the video, they describe how nine open-pit coal mines situated within the town borders close to residential areas pollute the environment, creating unlivable conditions for almost 90,000 residents there. Kiselyovsk is often covered in black coal dust. The air is filled with smoke. And spontaneous underground fires have been noticed recently. As stated in the address, “owners of coal enterprises ignore interests of the town’s residents.” In turn, regional officials are accused of protecting the industry instead of people and ecological standards. Numerous appeals sent to the Russian President Vladimir Putin have never been addressed. Thus, the people conclude that they have tried to solve the problem by all means, but nothing works out.
“We can become useful to Canada because in Russia we have simply been forgotten and we feel here as superfluous, useless people.”
The story of these Russian asylum seekers received more attention on June 11, with a number of media sources covering the issue. CBC News, citing unnamed immigrational experts, defined chances of the Kiselyovsk residents to gain such refugee status in the country as minimal due to the lack of environmental provisions in the Canadian Immigration law. On June 15, Alexey Navalny, a prominent Russian blogger and political activist, called the above-mentioned video address “humiliating for the country.” He perceives people’s main idea to become refugees in Canada as an absurd way of reaching out to the Kremlin and state officials when no other ways are accessible because of a high level of corruption.
At the same time, despite promises of relocation, there is an attempt to lay the whole blame for the underground fires on the people themselves. According to an assessment of the Research Centre VostNII on Industrial and Ecological Safety in Mining in Kemerovo, shared by the town administration with news agencies, the ignition occurred at an unauthorized dump. Moreover, Sergey Tsivilev, Governor of the Kemerovo region, blamed Kiselyovsk residents in discrediting the region and the entire country. “If these people do not care a dime about their region and discredit it in many possible ways, what should I think of them?” asked the governor during his press conference on June 15.