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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Lost In Transit

It seems the airport in Moscow has indeed been upgraded since I was there 24 years ago. Brian Palmer of Slate explains the conditions Edward Snowden may be in the midst of:

Sheremetyevo airport’s transit zone encompasses three terminals and includes both the V-Express capsule hotel and one wing of the Novotel. Travelers can buy a Vopper from Burger King or nosh on a Cinnabon.

There’s a separate area, however, that few travelers ever see: the detention rooms. Almost all international airports have these spaces, where refugees and others with uncertain immigration status wait to be admitted to the country or shipped back from whence they came. Human rights advocates say the transit-zone detention facilities in Eastern European airports are among the world’s worst. They are one- or two-room suites with more detainees than beds and sometimes just one toilet for every 20 people. The airlines are usually responsible for detainee care, and some of them allegedly scrimp on food and medicine. There is limited contact with the outside world, and in the worst transit zones, like some in Bulgaria, Romania, and the Slovak Republic, refugees are given no opportunity to meet with a lawyer or file an asylum claim. The rooms in some transit zones are locked, although detainees are usually allowed to wander parts of the airport when no other travelers are around. People have spent as much as 20 months living in the transit zone in Sheremetyevo airport....

Transit zones can now refer either to physical spaces or to amorphous legal concepts. The transit zone around Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport, for example, includes hospitals and a court more than 12 miles away. Detainees who travel from the airport to these facilities are legally considered to be moving inside a floating transit zone. The size and shape of a transit zone is therefore a matter left to the discretion of national authorities, and it’s possible Russian authorities have taken advantage of this legal technicality. If Edward Snowden isn’t sleeping at the Novotel or in a detention room at Sheremetyevo airport, he may be living in his own personal transit-zone bubble virtually anywhere in Moscow.
Thanks to Stuart Snyder for the link to the entire piece, which you can read here.