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Russian authorities push ahead with efforts to ease migration problem

November 29, 2013, 17:54 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Sergei Bobylev

MOSCOW, November 29. /ITAR-TASS/. The first officials responsible for ensuring everything should be calm and bright in relations between people of different ethnic groups in the territory within their realm of competence have been appointed in Moscow. According to a newly adopted federal law, each district is to have special commissioners keeping an eye on racial, ethnic and religious equality. The authorities are not going to hire new people for the job, though - mending and strengthening people’s friendship will be the duty of civil servants already in office.

“We are now forming a vertical chain of command to deal with interethnic and inter-religious issues,” the deputy director of Moscow’s interregional cooperation department, Yuri Nuzhdin, told journalists.

‘Ethnic relations commissioners’ will be appointed at all levels - from individual municipalities to that of the whole city. Each of these officials will be personally responsible for doing the job right. Those who fail may be fired.

The emergence of these ‘tolerance supervisors’ is a direct consequence of last October’s events in Moscow’s Western Biryulyovo neighborhood, where public unrest broke out after a native of Azerbaijan had stabbed a local resident to death.

Earlier, in July, a high-profile incident occurred at the Matveyevsky outdoor market in Moscow, where migrants beat up a police officer for detaining a native of the Republic of Dagestan on the suspicion of raping a young under-age girl. The police’s reaction was to raid Moscow markets and detain hundreds of migrants from Central Asia and the North Caucasus. Many of them were deported after ID checks.

President Vladimir Putin did not support the initiative to introduce a visa regime for these regions, though polls show a majority of Russians like the idea. At the regional level, a real war on illegal migrants and foreign criminals has been declared. News reports about migrants’ detentions ever more often look like frontline dispatches.

The Moscow authorities have launched the strongest crusade, which is only natural, as the country’s biggest city hosts more migrant workers than any other part of Russia. Surprise raids took place in the Lyublino district’s shopping centre earlier this week, five days after the first inspection, when about a thousand people were detained for various offences. The latest police raid, part of the operation Zaslon-2 (Screen-2), produced more detainees.

At a mid-November briefing, Moscow’s Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said the latest campaign by the city police expelled over 13,000 illegal migrants and almost 43,000 foreigners were prohibited from visiting Russia because of legal abuse.

Sobyanin added, though, that Moscow could not do without migrant labor force altogether, as the city’s economy would collapse virtually in no time.

However, the authorities do not confine themselves to police raids. The Moscow government is intending to establish a compact residential zone for migrants employed in construction and the utilities sector in central Moscow. The head of the social development department at the prefecture of the Central Administrative District, Lyudmila Narkunene, has speculated that the zone might look like a construction worker’s camp away from residential areas.

Sending migrant workers to such properly arranged accommodation facilities would help bring them out of the shadow and legalize their living and working status in Russia, the authors of the initiative believe. Besides, thousands of people will be able to leave the makeshift shelters in the basements and abandoned buildings and make it easier for city authorities and the police to ease the risk of conflicts.

Meanwhile, Moscow legislators have demanded tougher control of migrants in the Moscow metro. Deputy Chairman the Moscow City Duma’s security commission, Sergey Goncharov, believes permanent checkpoints of the Federal Migration Service should be arranged inside the metro stations of the circular line and also some stations located near railway terminals with access to databases, where migrants’ documents can be checked for authenticity on the spot. This may reduce the number of illegal migrants in Moscow and provide better safety for subway passengers.

Installation of automatic systems to monitor illegal migration at airports is due to be completed in the following months. The system will scan the identity data of foreigners coming to Russia and transmit them to the Federal Migration Service. If a person has failed to request registration at any of the FMS divisions after crossing the border, this will immediately become known, so that it will be easier for the law enforcement authorities to identify violations of migration laws.

Meanwhile, Russia’s federal government has put forward a bill to toughen recruitment rules for foreigners. In particular, migrants would be obliged to present their health insurance, residence permit and labor permit.

Numerous polls have shown most Russians are negative about labour migrants. A recent survey conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Studies Center VTSIOM has indicated the number of those who oppose ‘labor amnesty’ for migrant workers by far outnumbers the supporters of the initiative (50 percent against 24 percent).

The Russian business ombudsman Boris Titov made the labor amnesty proposal last September. He suggested the authorities should cease hunting illegal migrants and legalize the huge amount of labor force from near-abroad countries, the rationale behind this being the economy may otherwise collapse.

A popular news site,, has conducted its own probe into the attitude to migrants. The interim results are impressive, indeed - an overwhelming majority of visitors to the site admitted their attitude to migrants was “rather negative” (82%) and very many (67.2% of respondents) believe the interethnic situation is “critical”.

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