MOSCOW, August 15 (RIA Novosti) – Police said Thursday that 1,800 immigrant workers had been detained after raids on commercial enterprises in Moscow Region, the latest in a string of such operations taking place across Russia.
“During raids against illegal immigrants police checked a series of construction and farming markets. As a result 1,800 foreign citizens were detained,” local police said in a statement.
Most of those detained were later released without charge, but 240 people were charged with administrative offenses and police were deciding whether to press criminal charges against 81 others, according to the statement.
The sweep in Moscow Region's Odintsov district follows similar operations across Russia over the weekend, in which hundreds of arrests took place in cities including the Siberian city of Tyumen and in southern Russia's Krasnodar Territory, a key agricultural region.
More than 500 suspected illegal immigrants remain housed in a temporary tent encampment in Moscow, after a series of large raids in recent weeks that officials have said are aimed at “decriminalizing” the city.
The Russian economy is heavily dependent on immigrant labor, particularly from Central Asia, but there is widespread opposition within society to increased levels of immigration. There are about 3 million illegal immigrants in the country, according to official estimates.
Kremlin critics have linked the recent raids to upcoming local elections on September 8, and an attempt by official candidates to bolster their support base by appearing to take a tough line on illegal immigration.
The upcoming elections include a vote for governor of Moscow Region, where the raids reported Tuesday took place, in which Kremlin backed candidate Andrei Vorobyov looks set to win despite a challenge from opposition leader and former State Duma deputy Gennady Gudkov.