MOSCOW, October 23 (RIA Novosti) – Less than 10 days after large police raids targeting migrant workers began in response to nationalist rioting, Moscow's crackdown on illegal migration is having some unintended consequences.
Garbage and autumn leaves are piling up in some Moscow streets and courtyards as cleaning companies and other businesses reliant on migrant labor apparently hurry to fire foreign workers out of fear of incurring official penalties.
“The heads of certain enterprises and departments have started being overcautious,” said Boris Andreyev, head of Moscow’s Alekseyevsky district.
“[They] have tried to get out of employing both illegal and legal migrants.”
Moscow authorities have been seeking to defuse ethnic tensions in the city after the murder of a young Russian man, allegedly committed by an Azerbaijani, provoked anti-migrant rioting on October 13.
In the aftermath of the violence, thousands of migrants were detained in a series of police raids, and Moscow's police chief promised to carry out weekly operations, drawing on private security firms and citizen volunteers as well as police officers, to sweep apartments where migrants may be living illegally.
While there is significant hostility in Russian society toward higher levels of immigration, millions of migrant workers, particularly from ex-Soviet Central Asia, play a key role in the country's economy. About 11 million foreigners entered Russia in the first six months of 2013, according to federal migration officials.
The fear instilled by the authorities’ clampdown already appears to be translating into the disappearance of foreign workers across Moscow.
“I used to see him [the local street cleaner] tidying up in this building and that building, but for the last few days I haven’t seen him,” said Olga Krasnoshchekova, a resident of Moscow’s Ramenki district.
Few experts predict that it will be possible to find enough Russians willing to replace the large contingent of migrant workers doing manual labor jobs.
Earlier this year Kronstadt, an island town near St. Petersburg, conducted an experiment during which two thirds of local street cleaners were replaced by Russians. While the small scale meant that enough local people were found to perform the work, it prompted complaints that the quality of the cleaning had deteriorated.
One Moscow official cautioned earlier this week that the situation in the city could worsen, leading to a full-scale "catastrophe" and mountainous snowdrifts as the country's long, cold winter sets in.
Troparevo-Nikulino district official Vladimir Garnachuk said the city would endure “bad snow clearance and poor quality street cleaning,” speaking on Dozhd television station Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, this is a problem that Moscow will face this winter,” he warned.