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Illegal migrants problem highlights discontent with law enforcers

October 16, 2013, 17:56 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, October 16 (Itar-Tass) - Europe’s largest vegetable market and warehouse Novyie Cheryomushki, in Moscow’s Biryulyovo neighbourhood, measuring 35 hectares in area and having an annual turnover of many billions of roubles, may be closed down following a court ruling and an inspection held immediately after mass rioting in this area of Moscow. The official reason is abuse of sanitary requirements, but, as experts say, the vegetable market is a den of corruption and crime.

The market drew the attention of the police after the October 11 high-profile murder of a 25-year-old resident of Moscow by an Azerbaijan-born guest worker employed at that market. The local residents gathered for a massive demonstration of protest on Sunday. Hooligans took advantage of this outburst of popular anger and raided and looted the market stalls belonging to immigrant vendors. Also, the people demanded the ill-famed warehouse be closed down.

Human rights activist Ella Pamfilova, leader of the national movement Civic Dignity, believes that the explosive situation over the Novyie Cheryomushki market is an exact replica of the state of affairs at the semi-criminal construction sites, food markets and retail trade sites all over Russia.

“Mass employment of the illegal workforce plays into the hands of corrupt officials, police and greedy and cynical businessmen, who make the whole country choke with anger,” Pamfilova said.

The leader of the movement Civic Dignity strongly criticized officials for turning a blind eye on the needs of ordinary people.

“They do not take daily rides on the metro during the rush hour, they do not walk along our streets. They just do not see that Moscow is being turned into a megapolis of illegal migrants from Central Asia. This is not the blame of people coming from other CIS republics, it is an effect of an incompetent migration policy.”

The expert believes that “the situation in Biryulyovo the local people have been complaining about to the authorities for the past three years has highlighted a systemic problem of unbridled corruption in the law enforcement agencies, whose mission is to protect human rights in Russia. Instead, police are involved in protection racketeering of the food markets and warehouses, where drug abuse and prostitution are a commonplace. It is not the OMON riot police who should be blamed for the existence of that problem, but their local chiefs, who quite often force honest and decent officers to leave the law enforcement service.”

Pamfilova believes that the Russian people are by no means nationalistic. But when in one’s own neighbourhood a Russian feels not at home, the popular anger floods the streets of Russian cities. Quite often this is not an evidence of inter-ethnic conflicts. It is an expression of popular anger over corrupt officials and police.”

On Tuesday, in the wake of the Biryulyovo unrest, many in the State Duma called for tough measures to enforce immigration laws, including the introduction of visas in relations with the other CIS countries.

State Duma member Vyacheslav Nikonov, of the United Russia party, told ITAR-TASS in an interview that “nothing should be changed in the migration legislation.”

“Every necessary law is already in place. Now the laws just have to be complied with,” he said.

Police Lieutenant-General Aleksandr Mikhailov, retired, puts the blame for the Biryulyovo rioting entirely on the local police.

“Many of them just work for themselves and for the vendors who bribe them, and not for the state. In Pushkino, a suburb of Moscow as many as 2,500 illegal migrants from just one country were exposed just recently. This cannot but cause questions,” he said.

As for the situation in the Biryulyovo neighbourhood, Mikhailov believes that “the security agencies should have warned the authorities in advance the crime situation in that unsafe area was going out of control and taken action without waiting for tensions to reach the boiling point.”