Argentine officials have blamed organized “mafias” for promoting birth tourism to Russian mothers-to-be after several pregnant women were temporarily prevented from entering the country. Since the invasion of Ukraine, thousands of Russian women have come to Argentina looking to get their children citizenship.
According to the National Migration Office, over 10,000 pregnant Russians arrived in Argentina in the past year, around 5,800 of them entering over the last three months. A lawyer representing one of the women told The Herald that dozens of couples land in Ezeiza each day.
Russians can travel to Argentina without a visa, where all newborns are granted citizenship automatically, making it an attractive destination for so-called birth tourism.
Last Friday, six pregnant Russian women said that they were being held at the border in Ezeiza airport, unable to enter the country after immigration officials accused them of being “fake tourists”.
They were let into the country after filing for judicial protection on Friday night. Christian Rubilar, lawyer to one of the women, told The Herald that “fake tourism” is not a crime in Argentina. “It’s a cruel, inhumane, degrading treatment to pregnant women who are traveling by themselves,” he said, adding that women who had come with their partners were not stopped at the airport.
Florencia Carignano, head of Argentina’s immigration office, wrote on Twitter on Sunday that “mafia organizations were profiting by offering packages to obtain our passport to people who do not actually want to reside in our country.”
Christian Rubilar mentioned organizations making a profit by bringing women to Argentina and helping them throughout their pregnancy and birth. “They sell passports for over US$15,000, it’s an international network,” he said.
In her Sunday statement, Carignano stressed that the Argentine passport “allows [holders to] enter 173 countries and obtain a 10-year US visa,” which is “a privilege and a responsibility towards those countries”.
Alarm bells rang at immigration when statistics showed a spike in arrivals of Russian citizens, according to the official. “That is why we decided to investigate, and we interviewed 350 of them who were in advanced pregnancy,” Carignano said. “We discovered that this organization offers people, in exchange for a large sum of money, a birth tourism package with the Argentine passport as the main reason for the trip.”
On their website, a company called “RuArgentina”, for instance, offers a ‘low cost’ package that includes pre-travel preparations, consultations with doctors, assistance at the airport, birth support, and “newborn documentation”. This package, the least expensive, is US$5,500. The most expensive package goes up to US$15,000.
Carignano said that the immigration office had passed data related to the case to the country’s judiciary with the aim of defending the integrity of Argentina’s passport issuance.
-with information from Reuters