Russia to issue 6 mln work permits to CIS migrants in 2007

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MYTISHCHI (Moscow region), November 15 (RIA Novosti) - A total of about six million labor migrants from the CIS will be allowed to work in Russia in 2007, the health and social development minister said Wednesday.

There are currently about 10 million illegal labor migrants in Russia, who inflict losses of over 250 billion rubles ($9.3 billion) to the economy each year in unpaid taxes, the Federal Migration Service said earlier this month.

"As of the New Year, quotas will be introduced for migrant labor in four areas of economic activity," Mikhail Zurabov said, adding that they will help substantially reduce the number of illegal migrants.

He said starting January 1, 2007, foreigners will be forbidden to work at outlets selling alcoholic beverages and pharmaceuticals, while as of April 1, 2007 foreigners will not be allowed to work in the retail trade sector and in outdoor clothes and food markets.

"These are not restrictive measures designed to worsen the situation of migrants - they are meant to protect the labor rights not only of Russians, but also of foreigners," he said.

He said a total of six million citizens from the Commonwealth of Independent States, a confederation of 12 ex-Soviet republics, will be issued work visas and permits to work in Russia in 2007.

In early October, President Vladimir Putin ordered the government to introduce quotas on foreign workers by November 15, regulate trade in markets, and set the term for continuous stays of foreigners on visas in the country at not more than 90 days during a six-month period.

The migration service said earlier this year that over 20 million people come to Russia every year as part of a post-Soviet "migration boom", and that half of these are in the country illegally.

It said migrants evade taxes and duty payments, and the resulting losses are equal to Russia's total budget spending on education and healthcare. The migrants often use quasi-legal money transfer schemes that are also often used for money laundering.

The migration service said earlier that funds transferred by Georgian guest workers to their homeland account for 20% of Georgia's GDP. Illegal money transfers to Moldova make up 30% of the country's GDP, while funds wired to Tajikistan are twice as much as the country's budget.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, many people from Central Asian states have come to Moscow and other major cities in search of employment. The majority find semi-skilled jobs, and are often underpaid.

The leaderships of some Central Asian ex-Soviet republics have urged the Russian leadership to improve their citizens' working conditions, and honor their rights on Russian territory.

Facing an acute demographic crisis, Russia, in turn, is interested in bringing unskilled and skilled workers into its labor force, but still needs to establish a sound immigration policy.

Some one and a half million civil cases were filed for violations of migration laws in 2005, and about 57,000 illegal immigrants were deported from Russia that year.

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