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The city of the heroes of illegal work


Today the appeals to rid Moscow of uninvited guests only a deaf person could ignore. And in the summer season the non-Slavic faces of our former Soviet brothers who lay asphalt, work hard on building sites and trade on the markets especially catch ones eye. Illegal immigration in Moscow: Problems and ways to solve them a roundtable on this topic was held by the city organization of the One Russia Party last Tuesday. The moment for this debate was chosen accurately. How to get the attention of the voters on the eve of the town council elections if not by such a hot topic? About a million illegal immigrants work in Moscow; compared to five million able-bodied Muscovites, that is serious business.

Only one in 10-20 immigrants works legally

To begin with, there are no trust-worthy statistics.

Everybody agrees that there are a million illegal immigrants in Moscow. But if I say that there are two million, who would refute this number? Sergei Smidovich, main expert of the Moscow city government on questions regarding migration, asks the attendees. Nobody would contradict this.

There are no adequate statistics, there is no possibility to control the migration processes, an official states.

Nevertheless, at the roundtable there were just enough statistics.

The same Smidovich remarked that the number of illegal immigrants that have been thrown out of Moscow increased ten times compared to 2000.

It also became clear that in the citys eight special institutions for illegal immigrants there is room for 740 people. And that in the first five months of this year 13,858 crimes in the capital, mainly robbery, theft and document forgery, were committed by non-inhabitants of Moscow: 5603 were foreigners, 7563 were Russian citizens. Admittedly, nobody mentioned how many crimes Muscovites committed in the same period of time. This information also did not show up in the leaflet that was given to the journalists. Yet it contained a curious figure that showed the specific proportion of the crimes committed by citizens of other countries or people without citizenship. This figure amounts to a whole 3,1%.

Aleksei Mikulenko, chief of the passport and visa office of the militia city department Moscow, reported that within these five months 182,070 migrants have officially registered in Moscow. That means 82,3% more than the figures of last year show.

Yet the chief of the migration office of the militia city department Moscow, Anatoliy Baturkin, said that this year alone his twelve subordinates gave work permits to 52,000 foreigners, representing 100 different countries and 126 different professions. This number is twice the amount of last year.

Admittedly, with this bright figure he added the remark: Still, only one out of 10 immigrants works legally.

Black economy a billion dollar check

Mr. Baturkin also explained why it is profitable for employers to break the law and hire illegal workers, in spite of the fines they have to pay. The registration procedure for foreign manpower can be dragged out two or three months, or even half a year, a time that the employer spends endlessly wandering from one office to the next. The migration office led by Mr. Baturkin is the third stop on the way to achieving the goal of working legally. The official admitted that in order to simplify the procedure -- at least for working immigrants from former Soviet republics, their office, together with the leaders of the city employment service, began, on April 1st , to work by the principle of one window. As a result, employers must now wait for work permits for their foreign employees no longer than one month. The only problem is that this regional initiative is opposed to federal law. The federal structures do not approve of it, Baturkin complained.

Concerning the punishment of employers, if the fine is 20,000 rubles, when one compares this to the wage of the official whose job it is to collect the fine, it is always possible to find a way to solve this problem amicably.

The black economy in the capital based on illegal immigration turns out to be exceptionally astonishing. The fee that a foreigner has to pay to be allowed to work in Moscow amounts to 4,000 rubles. If we add the tax money that does not end up in the citys wallet -- money that can add up to 6,000 rubles, while a work immigrant earns about 2,000 USD a year-- the hypothetical budget loss from the million non-registered workers gains its true billion sense. Plus, there have to be added the not so significant, but noticeable losses of about 7 million rubles that have been spent by the city for the expulsion of illegal immigrants since the beginning of this year.

The general picture is brightened by concrete facts. The head of the city government Law Enforcement Administration, Nikolai Kulikov, remembered how during his days as head of the Moscow police a case about the killing of four Chinese people was investigated: It turned out that his own people finished them off, on account of quite a large sum of money from 800,000 to one million USD that the four Chinese earned in Moscow and wanted to carry over into their country. Mr. Kulikov further told about sums that are circulating on Moscow markets occupied by illegal immigrants. In a raid on one of these markets they seized five and a half million dollars of black money.

They are used like slaves

So what can be done? The legislation has to be changed. It has to be profitable for the employers to only employ immigrants who are officially registered in Moscow and who have a work permit, the vice-speaker and leader of the One Russia Party faction in the City Duma, Andrei Metelskiy, commented on the gist of one of the possible suggestions for the authorities when talking to Izvestiya. Admittedly, right know it is unclear how to reach this goal. Which way is more reliable, tougher sanctions against violators or purely economical measures (for example, tax abatements for those who abide the law)?

As for sanctions, already since February 1st employers can be held criminally liable for the organization of an illegal stay of foreign citizens in the Russian Federation according to art. 322, part 1 of the Russian criminal code. In Nizhnevartov region the director of a construction company who employed 9 illegal immigrants from Uzbekistan on the building site of a 9-storey-house was sentenced to ten months in prison. However, as Mr. Metelskiy accurately pointed out, the toughening of the laws increases the corruption capacity. At least the following fact supports his words: In Moscow, with its one million illegal immigrants, there are uncountable millionaire employers and about 40 criminal cases similar to the one in Nizhnevartov region that have already been brought to court. Until now nobody has been sentenced to prison.

As for economic measures, they will be useless if the registration and work permit procedures, that right now scare everybody off, are not going to be simplified.

However, the Moscow bears promised to bring the problem to the authorities attention. Yet sometimes even they forgot about the party and got emotional just like normal people.

Under what circumstances do the illegal immigrants live? In abandoned houses, in cellars, member of the One Russia Party faction in the Moscow City Duma, Mikhail Antoncev, said, indignantly looking around, although for none of the present listeners was it a big revelation that the illegal immigrants working in Moscow are not socially protected. People use them like slaves, and when they have used them they throw them on the streets without documents.

Someone loudly complains about the fact that, for example, Tajiks and Uzbeks, who in their own countries only farm, in Moscow for some reason build high buildings that even without their work would have to be considered dangerous places to live. At these building sites the engineering technical staff, who are also mainly immigrants, changes every week. The workers have no kind of technical surveillance, and the absolutely inferior quality of the building will have negative consequences, if not today, then tomorrow.

Advice to the government

Another awkward fact came to light. It turns out that the federal authorities have no distinct migration policy. Nobody will ever ask Moscow about the problem of the permeability of state borders. If the authorities continue to deal with migration only by police regulation and close their eyes to its social and economic reasons, and if they do not take care of the economic development of other regions, the hordes of immigrants will further cover only the capital.

What the city of Moscow could do on its own, the federal government wont let it. Migration is regulated by federal structures, which have already been reorganized four times: right now the Migration Service is recovering from the periodical restructuring.

Generally everybody understands that the migration policy cannot be the same for Krasnoyarsk territory, with its vast expanses and small population, and the Russian capital, with its population density of 12,000 people per square kilometer.

Or do the authorities expect that Moscow will by this figure soon be comparable to the thinly populated Siberia?

Vladimir Mukomel, main researcher at the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences and director of the Center for Ethnic-Political and Regional Studies:

If the immigrants go away, Moscow will stand still

Izvestiya: Do experts know how many illegal immigrants are there in Russia?

Vladimir Mukomel: There are probably around 3 to 3,5 million. That is the opinion of the majority of experts.

Izvestiya: And how many illegal immigrants are there in the capital?

Mukomel: Less than one million. On the territory of Moscow and in the Moscow region there are about one and a half million. This is the number of the high season, from spring to autumn. In the low season there are less of them.

Izvestiya: Who is considered to be an illegal immigrant?

Mukomel: Those who either unlawfully entered out territory or unlawfully stay here because the term of registration has ended. Or those who work without a work permit. An overwhelming number of immigrants enter the territory lawfully, but the majority have no legal base for staying and working here. Izvestiya: Why?

Mukomel: The law itself creates the non-legals. If a person doesnt confine himself to it, he is automatically outlawed. A senior militia officer not long ago told how the coworkers of his department tried to go through the whole registration procedure. It is not possible to be registered in three days. It took them 130 days.

: What conclusion did they draw from this in the Ministry of Internal Affairs?

: That it is necessary to simplify the procedure.

Izvestiya: Will the structures, the people that make a living out of the illegal immigrants, voluntarily simplify the registration procedure?

: The answer is obvious. Questions regarding migration policy and procedures should not be decided by these structures. By the way, you havent seen yet what is happening in the provinces. Last year I made an inspection in Samara. There the militia sets up guard-posts at the paths that lead to the building sites where the Tajiks work. The militia officers take over their posts at 5 oclock in the morning.

Izvestiya: Are there the same registration problems in Samara?

Mukomel: They are the same everywhere.

Izvestiya: Yet the difficult registration procedure is not the only problem.

Mukomel: Of course. Even the registration does not give an immigrant the legal basis for work. There is a system of how to get a permit to employ foreign workers. There are quotas for the different regions. However, all of this has no connection to real life. In the last years about 400,000 foreigners have worked legally in Russia, and this number nearly doesnt change at all. The regions do not want a bigger number. The problem is that it is very difficult to legalize the foreign labor force. The procedure takes so long that it loses its purpose. Even the Federal Migration Service says that the procedure has to be simplified, that we need the principle of one window. Yet nobody does anything.

Izvestiya: What is the problem?

Mukomel: First of all, nobody is interested in the legalization of immigrant work. For example, does a Moscow construction complex need this? No. They will have different expenses, probably higher ones. Is the service sector interested? No. And the people who take care of our small daily needs? Who in our country works as a yard-keeper today? Mainly Tajiks and Kirgizes. By the way, as a resident I am glad. When we had Russian yard-keepers, in winter it was impossible to drive your car out of the yard. Then the Ukrainians showed up and it became better. When the Tajiks started working, I simply doted up on them. In winter they chop the ice off the asphalt.

Izvestiya: Have you ever tried to imagine what will happen if all immigrants leave Moscow?

Mukomel: Without them Moscow would come to a stand still. Public transport and buildings sites would come to a halt. If you are having your apartment repaired or a dacha built, you would get into big problems because the prices would rise. Also on the markets the prices would rise. There is the myth that the immigrants take work and bread away from the Muscovites, but many of them have highly unqualified work. Muscovites would never take these jobs.

Izvestiya: Of course, there has always been the limita, a limited number of immigrants.

Mukomel: That is true. The work immigrants today are the limita of Soviet times, but without social obligations on the part of those who use their work. By the way, in Soviet times every year up to 100,000 limitchiki came to Moscow.

Izvestiya: Even compared to those times, today in the capital we have a very difficult demographic situation. According to experts, soon the Muscovites will not have to drive immigrants away, but on the contrary fight for them with other regions.

Mukomel: We already fight for them. You will not see work immigrants from Kazakhstan in Moscow. What is more, Kazakhstan is attracting work immigrants from Kirgizia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. There are more than half a million of them there. By the way, the yellow danger is totally exaggerated. The Chinese have a bigger interest in their South-East, where they can earn as much as here, only without our militia, skinheads, and so on.

Today there is a lot of talk about that migrant workers are robbing Russia. It is discussed how much money they transfer to their countries, a calculation that goes into billions. According to my calculations, they transfer about 3 to 3,5 billion dollars. They earn about 8 to 9 billions, though. The difference stays here. Moreover, as an illegal immigrant who works on a building site told me: After all, we do not carry away the houses that we built.

Izvestiya: As a resident you are glad about Tajik yard-keepers. But as a citizen you cannot pretend not to know under what circumstances they live. Or should they protect their rights themselves?

Mukomel: It is hard for them to change the situation themselves. There should be a common desire of both the authorities and society. We must admit that if we make use of immigrant work, we have to guarantee them at least a minimum of social security. In his time Max Frisch accurately remarked: We invited short-term workers, and then it turned out that they are human beings. But then, Russia is not Switzerland.

Interview by Natalya Davydova

"As long as it is profitable to break the law and pay fines, everybody will do it"

Sergei Cmidovich, head of the Moscow department for coordination of the development of interregional programs, social and religious relations and migration :

We need an accurate balance of work resources. How much resources do we have? How many foreigners do we need to come here? We have to know how many work migrants are necessary: firstly work migrants from Russian regions, then from Ukraine, then from Belarus, and only after that from other, distant foreign countries. I have to stress: according to the law Russian citizens have the supreme right on available jobs. If Muscovites dont want to work as drivers, fine. Drivers, you may find in the Vladimir or the Tula regions.

It is time to quit the constant restructuring of the systems that regulate migration processes. You have to leave those structures alone. They have to be entrusted with the absorption of the Russian-speaking people that arrive from former Soviet republics. Let us take care of their reception, accommodation and education. Let us use the experience of Israel, which helps people who want to become an Israeli citizen in every possible way.

Viktor Seliverstov, substitute secretary of the political council of the One Russia Partys Moscow City Regional Department:

I worked as a deputy for the prefect of the Northwestern district. It happened that supervisors together with OMON (Special Operations State Militia)) troops arrived on a building site, a good one, and collected three buses full of illegal workers. They called me to the site and asked: Help us. They arrested everyone here. What should they do? They have to finish the building. The new residents want to move in. Even though I knew that I am not doing the right thing, I persuaded the people responsible to get the illegal workers back on the building site. The result was that they withdrew their passports, and the chief of the building site had to pay a fine for every single worker. The main thing is that everybody knows about this. If you want, you can drive by any major market at half past seven in the morning. You will see the immigrants arrive. They live nearby, in the neighboring houses. That is also something everybody knows. How can we solve this problem? Probably some fundamental changes have to be made.

Anatoliy Kochetkov, chief substitute of the department for consumer market and services:

We have to simplify the legalization of migrant workers. Those who want to undertake the legalization process in a normal, calm, way should be able to do this as easily as possible. That is the carrot method, but there is also the stick method. Yet we do no punish the right people. For example, a businessman employs an Uzbek as a market salesman who works without any documents. Well, this businessman will pay a fine and afterwards employ the next Uzbek. Why is the owner of the market not made liable? His responsibility has to be defined by law, in such a way that breaking the law means a huge economic loss for him. Only someone who fears losing his business can establish order. This has to be realized everywhere, in every branch. Then nobody will hire illegal workers anymore. Just as long as it is profitable to break the law and pay fines, everybody will do it. Or take the case of the illegal immigrants that we throw out today. It is simply ridiculous. We have one million illegal immigrants, and we throw out one thousand. Plus, everybody knows that our borders are permeable and that they will come back anyway. That means that it is monkey business, Moscow money thrown out of the window. If we care to throw someone out, let us at least do it in a way that he can never come back. These are general thoughts, but concrete suggestions about a change in the legislation should be made by professionals. .

[26.06.2005]

Source: izvestiya.ru

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