Over a third of Russians believe an influx of “other ethnicities” poses a “very real” threat to Russia’s national security, a poll released July 22 says. Fewer Russians fear terrorism or environmental disaster, the poll found.
According to the state-run All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), 35 percent of Russians feel migrants from abroad are a top threat to Russia’s security. Thirty-three percent believes the “degradation of culture, science and education” poses a grave threat. Twenty-eight percent names terrorism and the same proportion cites ecological catastrophe as “very real” threats.
A VTsIOM spokeswoman told RIA Novosti that the question about “other ethnicities” referred to “migration from abroad.” Migration is seen as less of a threat than it was eight years ago, however; in 2005, 58 percent of Russians named it a top threat facing the country.
VTsIOM interviewed 1,600 people across the country in June for the poll, asking them to rate the likelihood of 20 potential security threats.
The influx of foreign laborers has climbed considerably over the last decade as Russia has experienced an oil-fueled economic boom and its own population continues to decline. Russia’s Federal Migration Service estimates the number of migrant workers in Russia is around 5 million, of which 60 percent are illegals. The number is growing quickly, too. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Russia is more dependent on illegal migrants than any other country. They account for approximately 7 percent of the workforce.
Millions of the migrants are from the impoverished Central Asian republics. Many of them face abuse from officials and employers, human rights groups say. Just look what it takes to get a work permit:
Xenophobia and hate crimes have increased with the influx, and anti-migrant rhetoric has become common at the highest levels of government. In recent months, the campaign for Moscow mayor has assumed a darkly anti-migrant flavor, as EurasiaNet reported in June.
"Moscow is a Russian city and it should remain that way. It is not Chinese, Tajik or Uzbek," Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told the Moskovskiye Novosti newspaper in May. “People who speak Russian badly and who have a different culture are better off living in their own country.”
Sobyanin, who is running for reelection, has also broadly blamed migrants for crime. Yet Interior Ministry figures show that foreigners committed no more than 2 percent of crimes in 2012. […]
With such talk coming from the top, it is little surprise that harassment and violent attacks against migrants are common. Central Asian guest workers, who are sometimes poorly educated and speak halting Russian, are easy targets.
Though authorities score easy political points by targeting migrants, it’s clear the Russian economy needs the cheap, voiceless labor pool. In fact, despite frequent calls to require Central Asians to apply for visas to Russia, the number of Central Asian gastarbeiters could grow in the coming years as Moscow coerces more Central Asian states, such as Kyrgyzstan and perhaps Tajikistan, to join its Eurasian Union, a trade body modeled on the European Union.