The Kremlin plays the immigration card Cover Image

The Kremlin plays the immigration card
The Kremlin plays the immigration card

Author(s): Katarzyna Jarzyńska
Subject(s): International relations/trade, Developing nations, Geopolitics
Published by: OSW Ośrodek Studiów Wschodnich im. Marka Karpia
Keywords: Kremlin; Russia; migration
Summary/Abstract: Russia is currently the world’s second most popular destination country for international migrants (second only to the United States). In recent years, Russia’s relatively high economic growth has attracted foreign workers from poorer neighbouring republics in Central Asia, as well as from Ukraine and Belarus. In the absence of a consistent immigration policy, the large-scale influx of immigrants has become a major issue affecting social relations in Russia. The majority of Russians oppose the arrival of both foreign workers and internal migrants from Russia's North Caucasus republics, claiming that their presence in Russia contributes to the escalation of ethnic and religious tensions, fuels organised crime and corruption, and increases competition on the labour market. As many as 70% of Russians are in favour of restricting the number of immigrants allowed into the country, calling on the government for a more stringent policy on immigration. Since the end of July the authorities have responded to these calls by carrying out a series of raids on markets and construction sites across Moscow, where most immigrants tend to find employment. The raids have led to arrests and deportations. However, these measures should not be seen as a serious attempt to deal with the problem of economic migrants in the capital, mainly because of the highly selective and staged nature of the crackdown. This, coupled with the timing of the initiative, might indicate that the raids are a part of an ongoing election campaign, particularly in the run-up to the Moscow mayoral elections scheduled for 8 September. By adopting anti-immigration rhetoric, the Kremlin is seeking both to garner support among Russian voters, who tend to be easily swayed by nationalist sentiments, and to steal the anti-immigration card from the opposition and its leader Alexei Navalny. The opposition has been calling for a clearer policy on this issue and has blamed the government for the current lack of control over migrant numbers, accusing the authorities of benefiting from the widespread corruption linked to immigration. In a broader context, the actions taken by the government are a response to the declining legitimacy of the current ruling elite. By attempting to address the immigration issue, the Kremlin is trying to restore its image as a government attentive to social problems and capable of solving them effectively.

  • Page Count: 7
  • Publication Year: 2013
  • Language: English