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Russia’s migrants may have their own ombudsman soon

October 19, 2013, 5:17 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, October 19 (Itar-Tass) - A special position of Russia’s ombudsman for the rights of migrants may be introduced next week, when the presidential council for inter-ethnic relations meets in session in Bashkortostan’s capital Ufa under the chairmanship of President Vladimir Putin to discuss the nationalities policy strategy and migration problems.

“A special commissioner for migration, or ombudsman, is to be answerable directly to the president and have vast powers to coordinate the work of ministries and agencies in relation to migration policy issues. Also, I believe that he should have the power of expelling migrants from the country,” the author of this idea, State Duma member Aleksei Zhuravlev, told the daily Izvestia.

The Council, of which Zhuravlev is a member, supports this initiative. Moreover, The Council suggests resuming a discussion on re-creating a special ministry for the nationalities affairs and migration issues.

The director of the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, member of the council for inter-ethnic relations, Valery Tishkov, has told ITAR-TASS in an interview, “The idea of establishing a large ministry is excessive. I would suggest introducing the position of a special nationalities minister without portfolio and a small but effective staff subordinate to him. It may be a small think tank of experts empowered to monitor inter-ethnic relations in the social, educational and cultural spheres, the economy and politics.” In the early 1990s Tishkov was one of the first ministers in the Russian government for the affairs of nationalities.

He believes a future ministry must be small, because a large bureaucratic machinery will be working for its own sake and cost the budget too much.

“This is precisely what happened to the previous ministry for the nationalities affairs. It grew out of proportion and the state abolished it in 2004 because it just could not longer afford this luxury.”

Tishkov believes that the introduction of the position of a minister without portfolio would be very good for domestic policies and for external relations.

“International experience indicates that a small agency for the affairs of nationalities, which the federation’s individual members will be able to come to with their problems and needs can be very effective. On the other hand, when inter-ethnic affairs analysts and experts come from other countries, in the Russian government there are just no officials concerned they may get in touch with.”

As for as the position of a migration ombudsman, Tishkov offered this opinion.

“The rights of ethnic minorities in our country are protected by the law. The minorities have learned the skill of protecting their rights with the help of autonomies, congresses, and messages to the European Court of Human Rights. The migration ombudsman, if such a position is introduced in the end, should in the first place be working to preserve cultural diversity.”

At the presidential inter-ethnic relations council’s meeting in Ufa Tishkov plans to bring up the issue of monitoring inter-ethnic relations and early prevention of likely ethnic conflicts. Once the data of monitoring have been analyzed, it will be possible to draw up recommendations for defusing tensions in certain regions and municipalities,” Tishkov believes.

The on-site session of the presidential council in Ufa will be a routine event. It is not linked with public unrest in one of Moscow’s neighbourhoods several days ago, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said. (Last Sunday the Western Biryulyovo neighbourhood saw mass unrest following the murder of a 25-year-old Muscovite by a guest from Azerbaijan). The presidential council for inter-ethnic relations will consider the implementation of the government nationalities policy strategy and the federal program for strengthening the unity of the Russian nation and ethnic and cultural development of Russia’s peoples in 2014-2020, for which 6.7 billion roubles has been allocated.

Also on the agenda will be measures to enforce a legal act the State Duma voted for last Tuesday that envisages the dismissal of mayors for inter-ethnic conflicts in their regions.