By Alexandra Sandacz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
MOSCOW, Russia – Alexei Mayorov, the head of the Moscow City Government Regional Security Department, announced that a volunteer patrol force will be created to assist the Federal Migration Service (FMS) with enforcing immigration rules in Moscow. The volunteer groups will participate in city patrols, check documents and detain illegal immigrants together with FMS officers.
Moscow City Hall reported that in 2012, the number of illegal immigrants extracted from the city increased by 150 percent. However, today, there are still around 200,000 to 300,000 illegal residents in Moscow.
While more than 300 people have already applied to the volunteer patrol group, Moscow authorities desire a total of 600 volunteers to help patrol for illegal immigrants throughout the city. Volunteers wear special red uniforms and patrol every neighborhood.
Russian officials maintain that patrol squad members are carefully screened and trained. Furthermore, aggressive individuals and ultranationalist are rejected.
Volunteers are authorized to search for illegal migrants at markets, construction and industrial sites, railways stations, shopping centers, and private apartments. Patrols will distribute handouts to immigrants with instructions and a list of documents required to obtain legal status.
Olga Kirillova, head of Moscow’s Migration Service, explained that only inspectors have the authority to bring immigrants before the law. The police volunteers are manpower. She states, “Sometimes, it’s necessary to catch a violator who tries to run.”
However, rights advocates are nonetheless opposed to this new squad. Most human rights activists fear “aggressive-minded” people will join the patrol and will increase Russia’s anti-foreigner mood.
Svetlana Gannushkina, a prominent human rights campaigner specializing in migrants’ rights, stated, “I’m very upset by the rise of xenophobia that I observe in the city and in the country. These raids will be conducted not by law enforcement organs but by ordinary citizens, and I can just imagine what kind of enthusiasts will participate. They will bring nothing but more xenophobia, abuse, and divisions in society.”
She continued, “”Who has the right to detain people? You need very serious reasons to detain people, even police officers don’t always have the authority to do it. And now it is bestowed to random and probably aggressive people. No one has the right to deprive people of their freedom, to grab them in the street and drag them somewhere. What are we turning into? This is simply monstrous.”
Gavkhar Dzhurayeva, head of the Migration and Law information legal center, said, “This is not a struggle against immigration but a manhunt. I back the idea of patrols, but volunteers should be trained to speak with immigrants in a civil manner. There must be certain ethics in communication, which are now absent.”
For further information, please see:
RFE/RL — Volunteer Squads Chase Illegal Migrants In Russia – 18 February 2013
RIA Novosti – Volunteer Patrols to Battle Illegal Immigration – 13 February 2013
Russia & India REPORT – Moscow to Hire Volunteers for Immigration Patrol – 13 February 2013
RIA Novosti – Moscow to Set Up Volunteer Patrol to Enforce Immigration Law – 12 February 2013