The Hunt for Illegal Immigrants
Colonel General Alexander Chekalin, Director, Russia’s Interior
Ministry Federal Migration Service
– (RIA NOVOSTI) Operation Illegal Migrant, which has just ended
in Russia, was timed to coincide with the springtime labour-migration
season from abroad. The Federal Migration Service (FMS) saw this
as the right moment to help foreigners register in the Russian
Federation, and at the same time to keep an eye on illegal migrants.
378,000 foreign workers from 127 countries worked in Russia last
year; of these, almost half were citizens of the countries of
the Commonwealth of Independent States. Construction workers accounted
for 40 percent of all migrants, with shop workers and restaurant
staff making up almost 22 percent and factory workers a further
13 percent. This year, we expect nearly 500,000 foreign workers
to register in Russia.
goes without saying that Russia needs labour migrants. However,
law-enforcement agencies cannot disregard their working and living
conditions, nor their social status. For this reason, migration
inspectorates were established in some regions at the initiative
of the FMS. These divisions, which are called on to monitor compliance
with national labour legislation on construction sites, agricultural
farms and trade outlets, exposed more than 120,000 administrative
violations in 2003 alone. Quite a few employers are not registered
anywhere, lack any statutory documents, and have no files at local
tax inspectorates. Moreover, their economic assets are in the
red. Such front companies enable crooks to get rich quick and
disappear to the four winds. As a rule, such "employers"
open their offices in rented flats or even utility premises.
Illegal Migrant exposed hundreds of forgers of documents such
as residence and work permits, migration cards, etc. These full-colour
documents mislead quite a few foreign migrants, and particularly
newcomers. Recently, FMS officials arrested five such conmen in
Moscow, confiscating scanners as well as 500 fake document forms
and dozens of stamps and seals.
Ministry bodies (such as the police and visa authorities) are
also to blame for the emergence of countless "offices"
forging immigration documents. It takes some 30-45 days to draw
up all legitimate documents for employers and labour migrants
alike, because all of them must be screened thoroughly. Conmen
take advantage of this situation, as they can provide expensive
forged documents that seem authentic in no time at all.
FMS believes that a simplified registration procedure – a "one
window" system could help to rectify the situation. Under
such a system, any foreigner would contact us twice. First of
all, he or she would submit all the required documents, asking
advice and receiving information. Such people would formalize
their labour-migrant status, and also specify their legal status.
The second visit would be to collect the documents. Without all
the middlemen, document-issue deadlines could be halved. The potential
of crooks would thus be minimized.
also believe that the currently permissive procedure for issuing
documents should become more informative. This would be more rational,
because the labour-services market boasts hundreds of companies
with an impeccable business reputation: such transparent companies,
which pay all their taxes, can be checked by law-enforcement officers
easily enough. They have every right to get any permit from us
FMS is also supposed to monitor labour migrants’ living conditions.
Unfortunately, our latest Moscow checks show that some foreign
workers are living inside hangars and metal sheds, and that their
living conditions are downright atrocious; moreover, any health
care seems to be out of the question. We have contacted municipal
authorities, demanding that they control those organizations which
do not care about foreign workers. Such "employers"
must therefore be forbidden from hiring any workers at all.
FMS has suggested making all those who care nothing about worthy
living and working conditions for labour migrants criminally liable.
At the moment, a system of fines and penalties is still in force.
It is crystal clear that we need an appropriate law or a migration
code that would take into account current normative and legal
documents pertaining to the employment of foreign workers in Russia.
In January the FMS opened a hotline, thus learning much about
the problems of labour migrants. In total, 11,500 phone calls
have been received since the start of the year.