Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Draft Migration Legislation Opens the Way for Return of Soviet-Style Registration for All, Activist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 13 – The Russian government has proposed new tighter legislation to deal with immigrants, but “many citizens” do not understand that this “tightening” of the rule will affect “not only foreign immigrants but Russians themselves” and require both to secure “propiska”-style registration with the authorities, according to a migration activist.
            In an article in today’s “Novyye izvestiya,” Lidiya Grafova, the president of the Forum of Resettlement Organizations, notes that the law has not yet been passed but that “several regions are already hurrying to impose tighter rules and penalties including fines and jail terms for those who fail to register (www.newizv.ru/society/2012-11-13/172795-propiska-vozvrashaetsja.html).

            “The current anti-immigrant wave” is informed by “a single PR goal,” Grafova says. It is designed to “show the population that the authorities are concerned about their own citizens.” But does anyone believe that even the re-introduction of the “propiska” can stop migration as long as “our borders with the CIS countries” remain open.

Some are proposing to introduce visa requirements or to keep migrant workers from coming into Moscow or St. Petersburg by means of police barricades, “but who will work in our rapidly aging Russia if the CIS citizens are turned away to other countries?” And Russia needs them because “the population of Russia is contracting by a million people each year.”

Her own experience of working with immigrants has led her to conclude, Grafova says, that “our migration policy and even more its implementation is defined not by the interests of the state and the requirements of society but serves exclusively the interests of a corrupt class,” one that benefits when people are forced to pay more to get around the law.

For the members of that class, she says, “this is not stupidity but a selfish calculation. The harsher the legislation, the more expensive becomes the quota not to speak about citizenship of the Russian Federation. The more prohibitions and limitations, the larger the army of illegals that will be driven into slavery.”

But under President Vladimir Putin, there seems little chance that this situation will change.  When Putin was challenged by a regional human rights ombudsman to commone on the idea that “if we only make the laws harsher, then registration will be converted into ‘propiska’ and not the best form of that,” he responded in a frightening way.

The Russian leader said: “You say that one must not just because harsher. But what then is to be done? … No one made any other proposals, I tell you openly.”

“It is unknown,” Grafova continues, “with whom the president took advice” and who told him that they “do not see any other way out.” Obviously, there are many alternatives, including the use tax identification numbers rather than addresses to locate citizens and legal migrants. “At the start of his presidency, Putin spoke with schools involved with demography and migration,” but no longer.

Now, apparently, he speaks with an ever narrower circle of people, Grafova says, and with people who see harshness as the answer to everything.  That won’t work forever, she suggests. Indeed, the longer that approach continues, the worse the situation in the Russian Federation for all those living there is likely to be.

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