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Labour migrants from Ukraine benefit Russian economy

The number of guest workers from Ukraine in Russia will be dwindling, although for the Russian economy it would be a whole lot better if they decided to stay

MOSCOW, November 3. /TASS/. The number of guest workers from Ukraine in Russia will be dwindling, although for the Russian economy it would be a whole lot better if they decided to stay, experts believe. Many argue that temporary residence permits should be issued to all those who may apply for them regardless of any quotas.

The lax migration rules most Ukrainian citizens in Russia have enjoyed since the beginning of hostilities in Dobnass expired last Saturday. The 90-day period of their presence in Russia without proper registration will not be prolonged any more. Those of them who have spent more than three months in Russia will now have one month to legalize their status in Russia. Exceptions have been made for refugees from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. The rules of presence in Russia and the automatic prolongation of their stay will remain unchanged. Those who fail to formalize their status by December 1 will be faced with administrative measures applied to all illegal migrants, ranging from administrative punishment to expulsion and subsequent ban from entering Russia.

There are about 2.6 million Ukrainian citizens in Russia at the moment, says the deputy chief of the Federal Migration Service, Vadim Yakovenko. More than one million of them are from Ukraine’s southeastern regions, and more than 600,000 others are in breach of the migration rules.

Since April 2014 404,000 Ukrainians have asked the Federal Migration Service for temporary asylum or refugee status, and another 265,000 for temporary residence permits.

In the meantime, experts at the Alexey Kudrin-led Civil Initiatives Committee have authored a survey of Russia’s migration policy and migration problems saying that relations with migrants from Ukraine are number one problem. As a labour resource, they have many competitive edges over their counterparts from Central Asia. Migrants from Ukraine are qualified and need no adaptation, but under the current state of affairs they may be forced to leave, the Civil Initiatives Committee says.

The committee’s experts argue that Russia has not yet managed to use the labour potential of refugees from Ukraine effectively enough. They are distributed among Russia’s territories regardless of their professions and skills. "Experienced engineers and technical specialists have to work as cargo handlers or builders to earn a living for their families and to pay for temporary accommodation," the survey says.

"Of course, the number of migrants will get smaller," leading research fellow Yulia Florinskaya, of the Russian presidential academy RANEPA, has told TASS. "They will have to either update their licenses and pay big money, something they are not in the habit of doing, or pack their bags. Some of them, the most skilled ones, will leave."

She agrees that the potential of Ukrainian labour migrants is being used not to the full extent: "All experts have suggested giving temporary residence permits to Ukrainians without any quotas."

"We are interested in keeping these people here. Ukrainian migrants play a tangible role in our economy, particularly so at a time when the number of migrants from Central Asia is on the decline. Should these people get up and go, there will be no chance of ever luring them back. This is very bad strategically. Besides, we do have the vacancies for them. Our own able-bodied population has been shrinking by 900,000 to 1,000,000 a year."

RANEPA academy Professor Alexander Shcherbakov agrees that the number of labour migrants from other regions of Russia will keep going down. "They are accustomed to having certain benefits," he told TASS. "Although the profitability of their trips to Russia is rather high and the abolition of benefits will not reduce that profitability to nothing, certain disincentives will emerge in the end and some guest workers will not come again."

The influx will ease. Many Ukrainian guest workers here are outside the legal space, the director of the migration policies centre at the RANEPA academy, Viktoria Ledeneva, has told TASS.

The labour potential of Ukrainian migrants remains underused, she agrees. "But they wish to stay in Moscow and other large cities in Central Russia, and not move to some remote regions. True, their professional competences should be taken into account, but the state does have its own interests, too. It would be wrong to say that the government is to blame because it is unable to accommodate them. The situation is to be looked at comprehensively."

Ledeneva believes that in last year’s extraordinary situation and the heavy flow of migrants from Donbas the Federal Migration Service did a rather good job and worked really fast.

"It goes without saying, though, that it could have been more efficient in some respects," she added.

TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors

TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors