Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed on Thursday an array of robust measures, including stiff laws, to deal with illegal migration ahead of the March 4 presidential election.
He has called for the expulsion and bans for migration law-breakers of five to ten years or longer to re-enter Russia, legal proceedings against the owners of "rubber homes" where migrants register illegally, and criminal proceedings for those who take on illegal migrants at work and organize flop-houses.
Current administrative penalties for those violations are “purely symbolic” and therefore ineffective, he said.
“The migration service is powerless here,” he said, adding that criminal penalties were needed.
Punitive measures, however, should be backed up by a new-look migration policy, Putin said.
“Russia is not going to shut itself off, isolate itself from anybody, but what we definitely need is to set higher standards on the quality of migration policy, including the regulation of labor migration,” he said.
Putin’s move seems to play up to nationalist sentiments and the huge public discontent about Russia being “overrun” by people from former Soviet republics.
He said his friends told him that “in some large cities people are afraid of leaving their homes on holidays” because of the fear of “strangers.”
“It’s a serious issue and we must pay attention and respond to it effectively,” Putin said.
Putin’s proposals come less than a week after he wrote an article on modern problems of multiethnic Russia as part of his election program.
He said migrants should respect the customs and traditions of regions they come to live in, and that any aggressive or disrespectful behavior should be properly addressed by authorities.
The prime minister proposed making exams in Russian, history and the basics of Russian law mandatory for migrants from 2013. That, he said, will help them to adapt in society.