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Russian government embarks on struggle with illegal migration

August 09, 2013, 15:35 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, August 9 (Itar-Tass) - Russian authorities have embarked on struggle with illegal migration - not least because of pressure from the public quarters. Still the expert community has doubts as regards the sufficiency of the measures that are being taken.

Amendments to migration laws that toughen the sanctions against migrants for an illegal crossing of the border, as well as for the absence of documents permitting employment or giving the right to residence take legal effect in Russia as of August 9. This violation will be punishable by a fine of 5,000 rubles to 7,000 rubles and a mandatory expulsion from the country.

The increase of penalties will concern only those of the migrants who are working in Moscow, Moscow region, St. Petersburg, and the Leningrad region. As for all other regions, the penalties currently standing at 5,000 rubles will remain unchanged and deportations will not be mandatory.

The penalties for employers are increasing, too. For instance, officials will be expected to pay 50,000 rubles to 75,000 rubles for illegal employment of migrants while the legal entities will be required to pay up to 1.5 million rubles. As an alternative, they may face a suspension of operations for fourteen to ninety days. The officials who illegally employ migrants as salespeople will be punished by penalties of 50,000 to 55,000 rubles and legal entities, 800,000 to 1.5 million rubles.

President Vladimir Putin signed the amendments July 23. Their effectuation coincided with an amassed campaign against the inflow of illegal migrants that was unfolding to the accompaniment of Moscow police raids on the city marketplaces. Mass checks of migrants began July 29 after a scandal over a scuffle between tradesmen from the North Caucasian region of Dagestan and policemen in the Matveyevsky market in Western Moscow.

According to Kommersant Daily, the Moscow police held a yet another raid Thursday in a yet another marketplace - this time the one located near a metro station in Yasenevo, a huge bedroom community in the city’s south with a population of about 181,000. Officials at the Main Department of the Interior said 264 citizens of the countries making up the Commonwealth of Independent States and residents of Russia’s North Caucasian regions were detained.

These detainees and the migrants currently staying in a tent camp for illegal guest workers in the east of Moscow may face the prospect of paying the revised penalties.

Plans of Russia’s Federal Migration Service suggest there will be two specialized centers for keeping illegal migrants in Moscow City, four centers in the Moscow region, and one in St Petersburg. Each facility will have 200 beds - far short of the real demand considering the numbers of migrants the police detain during every raid now.

Pre-deportation centers will appear in all the regions of Russia and their number is destined to reach 89. The Federal Migration Service has earmarked 6.7 million rubles /USD 1=RUB 32.5/ for the maintenance in 2014, 6.5 mln rubles in 2015 and same amount in 2016.

Kommersant quotes Yevgeny Bobrov, a member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights saying the new sanctions against guest workers are inefficient as a form of struggle with illegal migration. “An increase of penalties will stimulate corruption because the bureaucrats will be asking more money to permissions to work,” he said.

Bobrov believes the right measure would be to tighten control over the observance of laws already in effect, to struggle with the forgery of documents, and to introduce entry visas for the workers arriving from Central Asia.

Renat Karimov, the president of the trade union of migrant workers believes the authorities should put the migrants into the frame of legality as the first step and raise the penalties only after that. “First, there’s a need to increase the quota, which stands at only 150,000 people in Moscow City alone, while the actual number of migrants exceeds 10 million,” he said.

On the face of it, an opinion poll taken by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center /VCIOM/ exposed the Russians’ generally derogatory attitude towards immigration in its present form. The results of the poll say 74% respondents believe migration of this type is an evil and 53% of those polled would like to see tougher laws on immigration.

“Currently the main inflow of immigrants originates in Central Asia and brings here a multitude of problems with it,” the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid writes quoting the political scientist Yegor Kholmogorov, who edits the Russky Obozrevatel Internet magazine. “Take, for instance, the crime rates and the insanitary conditions. The migrants send down the prices in the market of labor and when those prices become so low that no one of the local residents wants to take up the depreciated jobs, there emerge the personages saying ‘Well, you see for yourselves you are good for nothing without the immigrants!’.”

He also pointed out the expansion of alien cultures and religious imbalances, which irritate the indigenous populations, too.

“Along with it, the migrants bring absolutely no benefits for the man in the street with them,” Kholmogorov said. “Their stay in Russia is lucrative only for the companies that need slave-like labor force, as wells for the corrupt managers of the housing services and public utilities who put a half the migrants’ wages into their own pockets.”

The Federal Migration Service has drawn a conclusion in the meantime that the mechanisms of quotas is malfunctioning in Russia. Dmitry Demidenko, a deputy chief of the Service’s department for foreign workforce, told the government-owned Rossiyskaya Gazeta about the changes that are forthcoming.

”To make the employment of foreign citizens easier and to refrain from infringing on the Russians’ interests at the same time, we plan to revise and to overhaul the current system of issuance of the quotas for employing foreign workers,” he said.

“An employer who has a certain set of vacancies will file a report on them with a local employment agency, which in its turn will select the candidates for these jobs from among Russian citizens. If it fails to fill some positions with the Russian candidates, it will then issue a recommendation to the employer in question on the rationality of getting foreign workers,” Demidenko said.

“The companies having recommendations of this kind will have an opportunity to hire foreign staff-members,” he said.

“Given the fact the quotas /in their current shape - Itar-Tass/ will be lifted, there is a suggestion that companies should get authorizations for the percentage of foreign workforce they can hire,” Demidenko said. “In most probability, it will depend on the total number of workers in each specific case.”

At this moment, the authorities are actively using a punitive measure in the form of a ban on future entries of the Russian territory by the migrants who overstayed their sojourn permits or committed two or more administrative crimes.

“Since the beginning of 2013, we’ve blocked an entry for more than 145,000 migrants and we’ll continue this work,” Demidenko said. “Our information resources prompt us that the risk group is bigger than 3 million people. In theory, entry should be denied to all of them in the future.”