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Russia Reduces Quotas On Foreign Workers

Posted by Kris Roman on December 15, 2008

Sharifbek Saddridin once taught geography in his native Tajikistan. But rampant poverty and unemployment drove him to migrate to Moscow several years ago.

Today, Saddridin toils at construction sites in the Russian capital alongside other migrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus. The work is hard and the pay is paltry — some $600 a month, most of which he sends back home to his family.

Now, he faces losing even that precarious job after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin this week signed a decree aimed at cutting quotas for foreign workers by half.

“It’s going to be very difficult, because there is no work at home,” Saddridin says. “I don’t know what’s going to happen after January, how it’s all going to end, how people will continue living.”

After a decade of booming growth, Russia has been hit hard by the global financial crisis. Companies have started laying off employees, and scores of construction projects have been frozen due to lack of funding.

Disgruntled Russians are pinning much of the blame for the country’s economic woes on the more than 10 million immigrants who, like Saddridin, have flocked to Russia for work.

The past few weeks have seen a string of antimigration protests across the country.

Activists from the Young Guard, the youth wing of Russia’s ruling party, this week held a street rally calling for every other migrant worker to be expelled from the country. Protesters held banners saying, “We will defend Russians” and “Our country, our work.”

The group has also offered to patrol construction sites in search of illegal foreign workers.

People from Central Asia don’t need visas to enter Russia. But once in the country, many are unable to find legal employment.

Saddridin says the government’s decision to reduce quotas for foreigners has stirred up feelings of injustice among Moscow’s migrant community, since most Russians would refuse to perform the work migrants traditionally do.

The quota cuts are also fanning the flames of already growing xenophobia by focusing public discontent over the economic crisis on migrants.


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