Friday, February 2, 2018

Russia’s Migrant Worker System Inherently Corrupt, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 1 – Speakers at a Moscow roundtable this week on “Corruption in the Sphere of Migration” were unanimous in suggesting that the Russian legal system makes the process of migration and the inclusion of migrant workers in the Russian economy inherently corrupt, inviting the very abuses the authorities and the indigenous population often complain of.

            Batyrzhon Shermatov, founding editor of the Migrant portal, said that in his view corruption involving migrant workers was connected with three main factors: a lack of clarity and mutually exclusive rules in the laws, the setting of conditions that are almost impossible to fulfill, and overly harsh sanctions for violations (

                Each of these factors, he continued, virtually invite both migrants and workers to engage in corrupt actions because the officials with whom each group has to deal are quite prepared to exploit the law to enrich themselves. Despite repeated complaints, the authorities seem quite prepared to allow the system to continue as it is.

            Valentina Chupik, who works as a pro bono defender of migrants, said that migrants are an easy target for police and other lower level officials who know that they can demand bribes from them because the migrants often do not know their rights or are unwilling or unable to defend themselves against such oppression.

            She said that more than 17,000 migrants nonetheless do turn to her legal group each year, an indication that the migrants are beginning to be more aware of their rights and their ability to defend themselves against the authorities. But that number is only slightly less than one for every 1000 migrants who are in Russia.

            Because most migrants don’t know their rights and are viewed with suspicion by many Russians, they are subject to harassment and extortion by a variety of officials. The police are the worst, feeling free in all too many cases to demand payments without any basis, but the multi-function migration centers and other government agencies are also involved in that.

            Chupik said that the main problem in this area is that the police give to themselves the right to check the documents of migrants without sufficient cause and in violation of the law and then demand payment from the migrants lest they bring charges against them.

            These corrupt police “are today so certain that they won’t be punished” for such actions that “they in practice don’t even both to conceal what they are doing.” 

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