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Ukrainian refugees’ integration would benefit Russia - experts

July 14, 2014, 16:45 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Zurab Javakhadze

MOSCOW, July 14. /ITAR-TASS/. Ongoing growth of refugee flow from Ukraine faces Russia with the need to integrate those who do not come back in the Russian economy. Despite the social burden increase over the short term, this will only benefit the country in the long term, experts say.

Intensified military actions in Ukraine’s southeast prompted more people to leave the country. More than 30,000 Ukrainians have already applied for refugee status or temporary asylum with the Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS), head of the authority Konstantin Romodanovsky said at the meeting with the Director of the Bureau for Europe of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Vincent Cochetel. A total of 26,500 have applied for temporary asylum, while about 4,000 have asked for refugee status.

About 130,000 asked for “a consultation connected to the hope for long-term residence in Russia”. These were not the people who asked for a work permit, Romodanovsky said. “They have decided they need long-term residence in Russia. And conditions back home are doubtful for them to come back,” Romodanovksy said.

The inflow of refugees is no more possible to estimate, so evaluations provided by officials sometimes differ. According to one of them, Russia has accepted about 500,000 Ukrainian citizens, the deputy minister of emergency situations, Vladimir Stepanov, has said recently.

The influx has caused emergency situation regime in six regions (Vologda Region, Rostov Region, Astrakhan Region, Stavropol Territory, the Republic of Kalmykia and Sevastopol), whereas Belgorod and Voronezh Regions have been put on high alert.

The Ministry of Labour believes Russia has sufficient jobs for Ukrainians. “So far, we have about 13,000 Ukrainians who are looking for a job and find it. We have no problems with vacancies, as our quota for foreign labour force is not yet exhausted, we have something in reserve. We have told the regions that if they need an increased quota, they’ll have it immediately,” said the minister Maxim Topilin.

Experts estimate that continued military actions in Ukraine will make 120-150,000 more Ukrainians apply for asylum in Russia this year. The flow is not expected to wane as civil war stricken Ukraine will face recession, gas crisis and social spending cuts on the EU association. The question the Russian government will thus have to answer is how to make right use of the incoming human potential.

“The question of how to integrate these people in the Russian economy is becoming urgent, as a significant part of refugees will not come back,” the Deputy Director of the center for human resources potential development at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Mikhail Koroshchenko, told Itar-Tass. Many refugees were assisted with employment, he added, which the expert does not see as a threat for Russians.

“They are ready to work in those professions, where we have a lack of jobs and that traditionally use foreign labour - in agriculture, manufacturing and construction,” the expert said.

Integration can be promoted with a programme aimed to assist resettlement of compatriots living abroad adopted several years ago, which is not yet in full swing, Koroshchenko believes: “The regions decided to participate, though nobody forced them to - they are in need of labour resources.” The new circumstances would give the programme a breath of fresh air, the expert said.

Refugees are now sent to the regions depending on their need for certain specialists, according to the Federal Service for Labour and Employment. The influx is expected to help resolve the labour force deficit caused by demographic problems.

“As for the short-term prospects of the Russian economy, integration of refugees is a certain risk, as social burden is increasing,” Koroshchenko said. “But over a long term, it is to the good since the economically active population will increase as well.”

“If we pursue the right resettlement policy, Russia will only benefit,” the expert believes.

Russian industrial regions suffered a shortage of qualified labour force, said the Manager of Post-Soviet countries economic development sector at Post-Soviet research center of Institute of Economics RAS, Yelena Kuzmina, quoted by The regions have economic development programmes that determine their labour force needs. Miners can be employed in the Kuzbass coal mining area, while industrial workers and engineers can find jobs in some mechanical engineering sectors, for instance, in aircraft industry in the Urals, the Volga Region and Russia’s Far East.

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