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24 May, 2008 05:22

Russia for immigrants: hell or heaven?

There are fears in some parts of Russia that illegal immigration may grow unless official quotas are increased. Millions of migrants, mostly from former-soviet republics, live and work in Russia. Several regions have already reached their quota for foreig

Moscow is a magnet for workers as it’s seen as the best place to earn a living both by migrants and Russians. So the jobs Muscovites shun, usually in low paid service industries, are taken up by those from the country’s other regions and the CIS states. 

Many say there is nothing to do in their own republics as there are no prospects there – this is the view Armenian Aleksandr Aleksanyan, a cook in a Moscow restaurant, also shares. He moved to Russia’s capital together with his family seven years ago.

Despite irregular working hours and a salary much lower than that of the locals, he would never go back. His boss Oleg Ermolaev is happy with Aleksandr, but could do with more like him. It’s this kind of employers who apply to the immigration service to allow them to hire migrant workers.

“There are only two cooks in the cafe, whereas I need four. So the two are working for months without week-ends and holidays, otherwise we'll have to close the business,” the restaurant’s owner said.

The latest government figures suggest at least six Russian regions have reached their quota for immigrant workers.

The number allowed entry in 2008 was reduced because last year’s entire quota was not taken up. But that's caused its own headache: if the legal migration is reduced, but the irregular part of migration consequently, is increased.

The Immigration Service suggests the quota may be increased in the future.

Oleg Artamonov from Moscow Government noted that employers may still apply for additional quotas that would enable them to hire more migrants.

“Also, they should make sure they apply for 2009 well in advance in order to avoid the lack of labour,” he added.

So far it's only Moscow and its region that have applied for an extension.