Russia should reform migration or face chaos – pundit

Experts question the efficiency of the quotas for unskilled foreign workers who arrive in Moscow and the Russian regions (RIA Novosti / Vitaly Ankov)
The consequences of the flawed strategy to attract foreign labor force may be even worse in Russia than in Norway or Britain, a former deputy head of the Federal Migration Service has warned.

­Russia’s migration policy badly needs institutional modernization, Vyacheslav Postavnin told reporters on Wednesday. The Federal Migration Service (FMS) has existed for almost 20 years, but many issues are yet to be resolved, the state agency’s former deputy head said.   

The state should clearly formulate its approach to the issues concerning the attraction of a foreign labor force, said Postavnin, who now heads the Migration 21 Century fund. Otherwise, the consequences of a chaotic policy – in his assessment – could be worse than recent events in Norway or Britain, he warned.

Postavnin suggested that a new unified agency should be created to deal with those issues which have become topical in recent years in many countries. The fund’s experts believe that regional and municipal authorities should have more say in formulating the state policy in this area.

Migration specialists also called for the abrogation of the institute of registration as “an obsolete measure.” A problem of greater importance is that the Russian economy is losing billions of rubles because a large number of labor migrants do not pay taxes or state duties.

The FMS head Kontantin Romodanovsky said in June that currently, there are more than 9.5 million foreign citizens in Russia, with 6 million arriving over the past year. He admitted that 6.5 million migrants have legal grounds to stay in Russia but they do not pay taxes. In Moscow, only one in three migrants works legally, he said.

The number of foreign workers is increasing, and the new draft concept of the state migration policy raises questions, Postavnin said. “One should fight illegal migration either abroad or at the border, not inside the country as is happening now,” he noted.

He stressed there was no conflict between Russians and illegal immigrants, and studies show that the majority of migrant workers would like to stay in Russia on legal grounds.

Nevertheless, the advice of some experts has recently been implemented. On Monday, the Russian government decided that highly skilled foreign laborers will not be required to register at migration offices within the first three months of their stay. After 90 days, these specialists and members of their families will need to be registered within a week.

However, when it comes to the problem of the foreign labor force, highly skilled specialists are not the biggest issue, as many of them work on special contracts. Many question the efficiency of the current quotas for unskilled foreign workers who arrive in Moscow and the Russian regions. The opposition Liberal Democratic Party recently said that the state policy in this area should be toughened, otherwise the inflow of migrants to Russia may drastically increase and “provoke a crisis.”

Addressing the issues of both immigration and internal migration, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said last month that a multiethnic Russia cannot afford to have ethnic tensions. He stressed that all migrant workers should be protected by the law. But the premier stressed that those who move to a different territory should respect the language and traditions of the people among whom they live now.