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Monday, January 15, 2007

Now, Russian Racism Turns on the Asians

Radio Free Europe reports:

January 14, 2007 -- Reports from Russia say unidentified attackers threw a grenade at two Chinese men in the eastern Russian city of Chita today, killing one and injuring the other.

Investigators were seeking to establish a reason for the attack and were searching for those responsible.

The Siberian province of Chita borders China and Mongolia. Two North Koreans died and a third was hospitalized after they were attacked in the Russian far eastern city of Vladivostok last month.

In late November of last year, the Kremlin announced a crackdown on migrant workers; these new rules take effect today. With this imprimatur from the Kremlin, can racist actions by members of the public be surprising? More self-destructive behavior from Russians; the population is falling, and they attack immigrants. The Moscow Times reports on the new rules:

New regulations that take effect Monday will tighten immigration requirements and quotas for CIS citizens and increase the penalties for illegally employing foreigners.

The new legislation puts a cap of 6 million work permits in 2007 for migrants from countries that have visa-free travel agreements with Russia. These are overwhelmingly CIS countries, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Migrants from CIS countries are currently the main source of cheap labor for Russia's booming construction industry and often take menial jobs that Russian citizens do not want.

Foreign citizens who came to Russia under a visa-free arrangement will now be able to receive work permits within 10 days of submitting a package of documents, including a passport, migration card and application receipt.

Employers can now hire such individuals without obtaining additional permits, but must still notify the migration, tax and employment authorities. All foreigners face a stricter registration-notification policy, with new rules requiring both temporary and permanent residents to register annually with their local Federal Migration Service office.

Under amendments to the code of administrative offenses, foreign citizens breaking the new regulations may face administrative fines of up to 50 times the minimum monthly wage, which is currently 1,100 rubles ($40).

Employers in violation of rules governing the stay of foreign citizens will likewise face harsher financial penalties, with the maximum fine being 40 times the minimum monthly wage for individuals, 500 times for officials, and 5,000 times for legal entities, which may also face a 90-day suspension of operations.

The brunt of the tougher new rules will be borne by migrants from the CIS, who have traditionally dominated many of the country's outdoor food markets.

Last October, President Vladimir Putin ordered tighter immigration rules and a crackdown on the country's markets. Starting Monday, the percentage of foreigners permitted to work in the retail trade sector and in outdoor clothes and food markets will be set at 40 percent. From Apr. 1, foreigners will be barred completely from these sectors.

Hefty fines, from 400 times to 8,000 times the minimum wage, will be imposed on those violating these rules.

Federal Migration Service officials said last year that over 20 million people came to Russia every year as part of a post-Soviet "migration boom," and estimated that half of those people were in the country illegally.

Critics of the measures have pointed out that they come as the country faces an acute demographic crisis and the labor force is shrinking.

The new regulations will "disrupt the economic ties that are the lifeblood of outdoor markets and vendors, where low-income people go to shop," wrote Andrei Kolesnikov, a commentator for RIA-Novosti.

"This could be a death sentence for the system of outdoor markets and the structure and volume of consumption, especially of fruit and vegetables."

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