It is due to such conditions that only 2 million of Russia's estimated
10 million to 12 million migrant laborers, most of them from the former
Soviet republics of Central Asia, work in the country legally. The rest
subsist in the shadow economy.
Russia's policy toward migrant laborers is plagued by contradictions,
analysts say. On one hand, the Kremlin would like to reap tax revenues
that legalizing foreign workers would bring. The authorities also
realize that migrants are needed to plug gaps in Russia's workforce due
to an aging population.
But persistent anti-immigrant sentiments, poor enforcement of existing
regulations, and a thriving shadow economy that counts on illegal
workers have conspired to make it harder for migrants to legalize
Vasily Kravtsov, of the Moscow-based Center for 21st Century Migration, says the obstacles for migrants are only getting worse.
"Unfortunately, everything is being done to obstruct people who want to
work legally, to resettle in Russia or receive citizenship -- this is
particularly the case in the last two years," Kravtsov says.
Kravtsov was among the authors of a new Kremlin policy paper on
migration that was unveiled in June. The paper recognized migration as a
positive factor in the Russian economy, recommended that the
authorities ease barriers to foreign laborers entering the workforce,
and called for steps that would help integrate migrants into Russian
Words And Action
The Kremlin formally endorsed
the concept outlined in the paper, which is intended as a policy
blueprint through 2025 and lays out priorities such as promoting
immigration. But, as Kravtsov notes, in practice this is not happening.
"The [state migration concept] was interesting, innovative and relevant,
but what does it matter if they adopted it, if unfortunately nothing is
changing?" Kravtsov says. "I for one don't see any change. Have we seen
a rise in legal migration or has it become easier for migrants to
become citizens and integrate with society? No, we haven't. It begs the
question: what is this concept for?"
Moreover, the political rhetoric from President Vladimir Putin on down
directly contradicts the spirit of the policy the Kremlin claims to
endorse. During his presidential campaign last year, Putin pledged to tighten up
laws requiring migrants to register with the authorities. He also called
for them to pass exams in the Russian language, history, and culture as
a precondition to work in the country -- a proposal which has since
been signed into law.
In November, Moscow annulled an agreement with Kyrgyzstan, signed in 1996, that simplified the procedure for Kyrgyz citizens to obtain Russian citizenship.
In his annual address to parliament in December, Putin called for
tougher punishments for illegal migration and said migrants should only
be allowed to enter the country using international passports. Earlier,
residents of some former Soviet republics could enter Russia using their