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    Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, December 14

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    Sharp Rise in Number of Initiatives on Illegal Immigrants / EasyJet Sacrifices Policy Principles to Accommodate Russian Customers/ Press Review: Vladimir Zhirinovsky to Give Up Liberal Party Leadership?

    MOSCOW, December 14 (RIA Novosti)

    Moskovskiye Novosti

    Sharp Rise in Number of Initiatives on Illegal Immigrants

    Russia’s parliament, ministries and departments and even the president are calling for tougher measures against immigrants. But the laws, resolutions and other documents they propose often contradict each other.

    Since December 1, immigrants will have to take a Russian language test. The State Duma is considering introducing criminal liability for expelled immigrants who return under false passports. The Labor Ministry has proposed tougher medical requirements, and the quota for immigrant workers is being cut every year. At the same time, the Federation Council has proposed issuing Russian passports to 25 million former citizens of the USSR.

    There are around 1.5 million immigrants working in Russia under the Labor Ministry quotas, which are based on regional employers’ requests.

    Regional authorities have cut the 2013 quota by 50 percent or more (75 percent in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk), but the biggest cuts have been approved in Moscow.

    Cutting quotas is a global practice, especially during crises when the government needs to secure jobs for its own citizens. Last year, the Federal Migration Service proposed replacing quotas with a centralized mechanism for recruiting foreigners and a certification system based on scores.

    “The system of quotas is ineffective,” said Kamil Gelmuradov, a lawyer at the Central Committee of the Trade Union of Immigrant Workers. “There are nearly 2 million immigrant workers in Moscow, only 150,000 of whom have work permits. Reducing quotas is a political decision designed to show that the number of immigrant workers is falling, which is not true," he said.

    Experts argue, however, that corrupt officials issue quotas in return for money.

    The State Duma is discussing a draft law on criminalizing the organization of illegal immigration. President Vladimir Putin has previously called for tougher punishments for illegal immigrants.

    The law specifies a fine of up to 300,000 rubles ($9,800) or four years forced labor, or four years in prison for illegal immigrants, and six years for a crime committed by a group of people.

    Some argue that only fingerprinting can help apprehend expelled immigrants who return to Russia under false passports. From January 2013, all immigrants who receive work permits will be fingerprinted.

    Court bailiffs, who deport illegal immigrants by a court decision, request deportation documents from the immigration service, buy tickets and accompany the deportees to the border, all of this at the expense of the taxpayers. In 2011, Chief Bailiff Artur Parfenchikov proposed replacing deportation with fines.

    Immigrants must undergo medical checkups at private medical centers, many of which issue the documents for 1,000 rubles ($32.70) without giving them a medical examination.

    In November 2012, the Healthcare Ministry proposed that immigrants be obliged to take out medical insurance policies before entering Russia. Experts say that it would be virtually impossible to verify the authenticity of such documents.

    The Economic Development and Healthcare ministries say that the medical insurance requirement would only increase the number of illegal immigrants. But the draft of Russia’s medical insurance strategy includes a provision on medical insurance schemes for immigrants.

    RBC Daily

    EasyJet Sacrifices Policy Principles to Accommodate Russian Customers

    The British low-cost carrier EasyJet has agreed to meet Russian travelers halfway by making their tickets refundable, which is usually not the case with budget flights.

    Russia has become the first and only country where EasyJet has agreed to sacrifice the basic principle of low-cost air services. Russian customers will be eligible for a full refund for their unused tickets, according to Regional General Manager for the UK Paul Simmons.

    Simmons believes the airline’s offer complies with the requirements of Russian legislation. He said EasyJet is always willing to adapt to the rules of the countries in which it operates.

    This does not mean that it is only Russian citizens who will be entitled to buy refundable tickets. This privilege will apply to all travelers flying to or from Moscow. However, Simmons did not say anything about refunding fuel and airport surcharges, saying only that the company would try to refund as much of the client's money as possible. Any EasyJet customers who want to cancel their booking and get a refund will need to apply to the call center. Simmons said the company will charge a commission fee for the refund procedure, without specifying the precise cost involved.

    EasyJet began selling tickets between Moscow and Manchester, from $72.49 without baggage or in-flight meals. The first flight is scheduled for March 28, 2013. The company will use 156-seater Airbus 319 jets and fly four times a week. In mid-January, the company also plans to launch sales for direct flights between London Gatwick and Moscow Domodedovo airports. Those flights will begin on March 18.

    Simmons confirmed the airline will adjust its business model in Russia to operate as a “hybrid airline” rather than a conventional low-cost carrier, using Flexi fares, which are slightly more expensive than standard tickets. The higher price will include the option for passengers to choose their seat, carry one piece of baggage free of charge and select another flight date, Simmons said.

    The airline is also considering the possibility of concluding an agreement with Domodedovo for its passengers to have access to the airport's business lounge.

    Non-refundable tickets are one of the underlying principles of discount airlines worldwide. Moreover, even regular airlines use this rule for cheaper flight options. However, Russian laws do not allow this, even for domestic carriers. The Rosaviatsia regulator also recommends that foreign carriers comply with local ticket refunding rules.

    “Foreign companies that fly to Russia comply with the rules of the country they operate in,” said Guenter Seibt, former general representative of Air Berlin in Russia. “Even tickets purchased through a foreign carrier’s website, which states that they are non-refundable, are still entitled to a refund for flights from Russia.”

    Argumenty I Fakty

    Press Review: Vladimir Zhirinovsky to Give Up Liberal Party Leadership?

    His son could inherit the helm.

    Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky says he is ready to transfer his powers to a party council, Kommersant reports.

    “I’m still perfectly capable of managing the party but in the future the post of party chairman should be replaced with a collective body. We will most likely specify in the party statute that a collective body should deal with all decisions,” Zhirinovsky said.

    Speaking at the party conference, the politician added that there is no other candidate apart from him who wants to be sole leader of the Liberal Democratic Party. If there is one, the party could lose its popularity and not make it into the State Duma.

    According to Zhirinovsky’s fellow party members, the party’s supreme council is likely to be nominated for the proposed collective body. Some experts, however, believe these rearrangements could in fact be a disguise for the handover of the chairmanship to Zhirinovsky’s son, State Duma Deputy Speaker Igor Lebedev.

    Whether the party will elect a new leader or establish a new management body will become clear at the party conference in March 2013. Vladimir Zhirinovsky has been chairman of the party since 1989. In 1993, the party was elected to the State Duma with its best-ever result of 22.9 percent of the votes.

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