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30.03.2005. Russia's migration policy must be made attractive

The current immigration situation is extremely alarming. During the past year or two, the number of immigrants coming to Russia has not exceeded 200,000 per year, which is 4 to 6 times less than the number needed to compensate for the natural population loss. If the situation does not change radically, many major plants will have to stop operating in the near future. There will be no workforce to build roads and apartment buildings, sweep the streets and drive buses and trolleys. The whole services system and a considerable portion of trade, primarily for the ordinary buyer, will collapse. The health care system and some sectors of agriculture will also be hit because labor immigrants are usually concentrated in these areas.

There are some objective factors behind the current alarming situation regarding labor immigration in Russia. The economic situation is improving in some neighboring countries like Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Naturally, people are losing their motives to move. Kazakhstan has liberalized its migration legislation making it milder and more hospitable. Thus Kazakhstan attracts some immigrants from Central Asian countries that used to go to Russia before. Europe's attractiveness is also beginning to have an effect. More and more citizens from western republics of the former USSR would rather go to Europe. The countries of Western Europe also take special measures to attract migrants, especially from Central and Eastern Europe and the former USSR, including Russia.

However, one of the main reasons for the fall in the inflow of labor immigrants that is threatening Russian development and national security, is the country's unreasonable policy towardsimmigrants pursued during the past few years.

Instead of attracting migrants by all possible means, Russia has been doing the reverse. There is a multistage and protracted procedure for migrants to receive Russian citizenship. Under the registration law, migrants have to register within three days, which is nearly impossible without resorting to corrupt means. In addition, migrants have to re-register every three months. They have to constantly give bribes to law-enforcement representatives. It is also very difficult for migrants to place their children in school. And most migrants have to do hard labor for many hours a day (such jobs are usually rejected by Russians) and endure constant humiliation.

Migrants are accused of many things. Some say that many of them do not pay taxes. But even if they pay taxes, they get nothing in return, neither free education nor free medical service.

Migrants are reproached for taking money out of the country to their families. But who would expect them to work 80-90 hours a week and with no opportunity to support their families? This means that conditions must be created for migrants to bring their families to Russia. Besides, the money the migrants send abroad helps to maintain stability in those countries and that may not be such a bad thing.

Some say, not without reason, that the tough migration legislation in Russia has racist roots. 
However, it seems that the situation with migration might be changing for the better. Vital decisions on this issue are scheduled to be made soon. It is clear that Russia's migration policy must be attractive, not restrictive. A special department must be set up to deal with the elaboration and implementation of Russia's migration policy.

We must also facilitate migrants» receipt of citizenship, help their families in coming to Russia and give their children an opportunity to study in Russian schools, which are in no way overcrowded. In a word, we must promote, in every possible way, the assimilation of migrants in Russia.

Russia, which is not too attractive for migrants because of its climate, must compensate for this «drawback» by creating more advantageous conditions for them. 
We could start negotiations now with such countries as India, Bangladesh, China and Vietnam on a controlled flow of workforce from those countries to Russia's Asian regions. We could launch a series of new projects to revive Siberia, relying on this potential workforce.

// RIA «Novosti»
Finally, we must urgently declare amnesty and legalize migrants who have not yet left for more hospitable countries that would gladly welcome them.