Tajik ejections 'biz as usual' - Medvedev

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at a press conference at a hotel following the conclusion of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Honolulu, Hawaii. (AFP Photo / Eugene Tafp photo / Eugene Tanner)
President Dmitry Medvedev has said that the recent deportation of illegal Tajik immigrants from Russia is not a one-off campaign and stressed that it will in future be carried out regularly.

Talking to journalists at a press conference following the APEC summit in Honolulu, Medvedev commented on whether the problem of illegal migrants would be addressed systematically or through deportation campaigns.

The president explained that the decision to send home undocumented Tajiks was taken separately from the move to expel 300 illegal Tajik immigrants in retaliation for Tajikistan’s jailing of Russian pilot Vladimir Sadovnichy earlier this month.

“I think it’s a coincidence,” Medvedev said in answer to questions from journalists.

The president said he had instructed the migration service to control the flow of foreign nationals into Russian territory, adding that there was a lot of public concern over the matter.

“Unfortunately, it often leads to an aggravation of the situation and inter-ethnic clashes. We can’t turn a blind eye to that,” Medvedev said, as cited by RIA Novosti. He underlined that decisions on the deportation of foreign citizens must be based on Russian law.

Regarding the jailed Russian pilot, Medvedev expressed hope that the Tajik authorities would hear and understand Moscow’s stance.

The president reiterated his doubts about the justice of the sentence and is said he hoped the Tajik authorities would re-evaluate its legality.

"Of course, it will be reflected in our relations," Medvedev said, as quoted by Interfax.

Sadovnichy and his Estonian colleague Aleksey Rudenko, who operated humanitarian flights to Afghanistan, were found guilty of smuggling, illegal crossing of the border of Tajikistan and violation of flight rules. On November 8, a Tajik court sentenced them each to eight and a half years behind bars.

The move sparked a diplomatic row between Moscow and Dushanbe with Russia’s Foreign Ministry slamming the sentence as “politically motivated”. President Medvedev said that Russia’s response may be “symmetrical or asymmetrical” depending on the reaction of the Tajik authorities.

Shortly after that, Federal Migration Service Director Konstantin Romodanovsky announced that around 100 illlegal Tajik migrants would be expelled from Russia. Later, that number increased to 300 amid media speculation that an “anti-Tajik campaign” was being used to “unite” Russians ahead of parliamentary elections in December.

On Friday, Tajikistan’s Migration Service denied reports that Russia was deporting Tajik workers and warned against politicizing “natural socio-economic problems.”

“We are puzzled by the media and commentators’ dishonesty while covering the situation with our migrant laborers,” it said in a statement.

The body stressed that deportations would affect only illegal immigrants and not documented migrant workers from Tajikistan. According to the Tajik authorities, the number of migration violations is generally higher at the end of the year since it is the time when many workers return home after their contracts with employers expire.