Russians becoming more hostile to migrant workers

MOSCOW (Reuters) — Activists from the youth wing of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s ruling party has held demonstrations against immigrant workers, demanding they return home and blaming them for Russia’s recent economic woes.

Russia is trying to prevent a deepening economic crisis from stalling an 10-year boom. But rising unemployment is starting to focus some discontent on more than 10 million immigrants who have flocked to Russia to find work.

Wearing white and red baseball caps, about 30 activists from Young Guard, a youth section of the Unified Russia party, gathered in the rain outside the Moscow office of the migration service. The group held similar protests across the country.

“Every second [migrant] should go home,” the group, mainly under 20 years old, shouted about migrants.

Activists held banners which said, “We will defend Russian citizens” and “Our country, our work.”

Putin, who is chairman of Unified Russia, told a televised question-and-answer session last week that quotas for foreign workers should be cut by half.

But Putin, who was president from 2000-08, also said most Russians would refuse to do the work immigrants traditionally do. He also warned against racism and called for tougher penalties for racist crimes.

Most of Russia’s migrants come from ex-Soviet states in Central Asia and the Caucasus and work in low-paid jobs in the construction and service industries. Many work illegally.

Russia has been becoming increadibly racist over the past years. With worsening economic outlook I would expect the number of racist murders and abuses of non-slavic looking people in Russia to grow. Unfortunately, this action by Putin’s own party activists is yet another signal to racists, fascists and skinheads of all types in Russia, that, despite all the ‘warnings to punish racists murders’, Putin is not really against anti-migrant demonstrations and actions. Knowing Putin’s totalitarian character, nobody will really beleive, that the protest actions by Putin’s own party were staged without Russian leaders approval. And this circumstance is what concerns me most of all. There are an estimated 2 million Armenians in Russia. Many of them are Russian citizens – but looking different from Russians has already proved fatal in Russia as has been the case with a number of racist murders in that country.

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