Russian Duma chairman blames migrant workers for drug trafficking

RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin
Russia must restrict the flow of migrant workers from Central Asia, especially from Tajikistan, and toughen the punishment for drug trafficking, believes chairman of the State Duma, Boris Gryzlov.

­Otherwise, he contends in an article in Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily, Russia may find itself in the same situation that China was in during the 19th century, when rampant opium addiction put the country on the brink of extinction.

“As long as China remains a nation of drug addicts, we should not fear that it will become a big military power,”
Boris Gryzlov quoted a British consul as saying. “Back then, the West intentionally cultivated opium addiction amongst the Chinese people.  A few years were enough to turn a flourishing country into a poverty-stricken semi-colony.”
The politician was quick to warn that Russia could follow in China’s footsteps.

“According to the UN, we are ranked third in the world in the number of drug addicts. Because of drugs, more people die annually than the total number of Soviet soldiers who died during the Afghan war,” Gryzlov continued. “A bitter irony, as the root of today’s deaths is also there, in Afghanistan.”

He pointed out that after ten years of the NATO-led mission in the country, the production of heroin has soared ten-fold. The head of the lower house also noted that Russia and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have urged the UN Security Council to recognize drug production as a global threat equal to terrorism.

“The status of global threat will allow the world to solve the fundamental problems of Afghanistan, first of all, by helping it build an independent economy,” Gryzlov outlines, adding, though, that the international community is reluctant to fulfill this initiative. So in the meantime, Russia needs to defend itself with its own means. One of them, according to the politician, is toughening border controls in particular and migration policy in general.

Russia has a visa-free regime with the other CIS countries, which includes Tajikistan and other Central Asian republics. Boris Gryzlov does not go so far as to suggest the reintroduction of visa requirements for citizens from those states, but he did suggest bringing back some form of border controls.

“Drugs are not transported by huge trucks, but rather in small installments by drug traffickers. Resuming control over the border is both in our interests and the interests of our neighbors,” he believes. Legally, it would not pose a problem, as Russia’s visa-free agreements with these countries provide for the possibility of toughening migration policies if necessary. 

“No economic benefits from the free flow of peoples will outweigh the human losses from drugs,” Gryzlov insists.

The second step, Gryzlov contends, would be the institution of mandatory background checks to determine if migrant workers and students from Central Asia have any previous or current links to the drug trade. In his opinion, their home country should give guarantees for every single citizen heading to Russia to work or study.   

Moreover, these migrants should be checked fro drug addiction.

“Yes, there’s a presumption of innocence, but there is also the right of the state to self-defense,” Boris Gryzlov observed, possibly in response to future criticism of the proposal. “If Russia is going to test its own citizens for drugs, we should legitimize such checks for migrants.”

The State Duma Chairman also proposes handing out life sentences to drug couriers.

“We don’t have the death penalty. But if we set our priorities like the Chinese, we’ll come to the understanding that each person involved in the drug trade should get the maximum punishment allowable under the law,” Gryzlov concludes. “It is our right to defense,” he stressed once again.