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Friday, June 06, 2008

Russia the Slave State

Paul Goble reports:

More than a third of all migrant workers in the Russian Federation are subject to significant restrictions on their freedoms, with one in every eight illegal immigrants there living in conditions of slavery and one in every seven illegal female immigrants forced to provide sexual services, according to new data presented to the Duma.

These figures, Moscow commentator Mikhail Delyagin argues in an article published recently, show that Russia today faces not only an “external” threat arising from “uncontrolled migration” but also an “internal” threat of the degeneration of Russian society because of the criminal exploitation for profit of such people. “Alongside us in Russia live and even work for many of us millions of people who are completely without any rights, people who in essence are slaves,” Delyagin says, and the acquiescence of Russians in this situation “makes us not only victims of the new regime” of capitalists interested in profit above all but their co-conspirators. “We must understand what is taking place precisely in our country,” he continues, and to that end, he offers the results of a sociological study that E.V. Tyuryukanov, a senior scholar at the Moscow Institute of Social-Economic Problems of the Population, recently presented to a hearing of the Duma Security Committee.

The statistics Tyuryukanov offered are truly disturbing. Legal immigrants in Russia work an average of 65 hours a week; illegal ones, 79 hours per week. Only seven percent of illegal immigrants have a contract. Legal migrants receive 228 U.S. dollars per week; illegal ones, only 175. Two-thirds of illegal immigrants have given up their passports to employers. Forty-three percent of illegal immigrants -- but only seven percent of legal ones -- have had to work at least part of the time for no pay. Twenty-three percent of the illegals, although only four percent of legal ones, do so, Tyuryukanov found, all the time, meaning that they take home to pay at all. Forty percent of illegal immigrants -- but only four percent of legal ones -- are subject to significant limitations on their freedom. Twelve percent of the illegal immigrants are effectively slaves, although only two percent of legal ones are. And among female immigrants, 15 percent of the illegal ones are forced to provide sexual services.

In his commentary, Delyagin draws attention to the fact that “if you exclude the part of illegal migrants who are in fact in the status of salves, the situation of legal and illegal migrants is not so strongly different” as many advocates of legalization as the solution to all these problems routinely insist. Moreover, he points out, these figures show that Russian employers need only about a third of the migrants who come to fill jobs. They need the rest to depress the salaries they pay to other Russians, something that means migration casts a far larger shadow over the life of the country than many suspect. But perhaps the most damning comment Delyagin makes is this: The Russian government, for all its talk about law and order has refused “even to sign the basic conventions of the European Union for the Struggle Against Trade in the Human Person, an indication that when there is a trade-off between people and profits in today’s Moscow, the people lose.

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