MOSCOW, June 28 (RIA Novosti) – Almost 1,400 migrant laborers housed in unsanitary and illegal buildings in the Russian capital have been detained on suspicion of immigration offenses, according to a police statement released Friday.
The migrant workers, mostly from the Central Asian countries of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, were living in purpose-built dormitories surrounded by metal fences on the construction site in the southeast of Moscow where they were employed, the police said.
“Eight to 10 people were sharing small rooms in unsanitary conditions containing four or five bunk beds,” the police statement said. “The emergency exits from the bedrooms were locked and the corridors were cluttered with furniture. Contrary to fire safety regulations, the migrants had been cooking food on electric stoves.”
The raid, which took place Thursday, was part of an operation called “Illegal Migrant,” the police said, with 1,314 migration law violations being reported among a total of 1,380 detainees. Criminal investigations may also be opened into the organization of illegal migration in connection with the case, according to the police.
Although Russia depends heavily on migrant labor, there is widespread opposition to higher levels of immigration among some sections of society, and the issue has become a focal point of the upcoming Moscow mayoral elections with candidates calling for tougher measures against illegal immigrants.
Acting Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, who is seeking re-election in September, said earlier this month that there were about 300,000 illegal migrants in the city, and that most of the city’s crimes are committed by "visitors."
“People who speak Russian badly and who have a different culture are better off living in their own country,” Sobyanin told Moskovskiye Novosti newspaper on May 30. Other senior officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have recently highlighted the risks of under-regulated migration, and drawn a link between migration and extremism.
A 2012 report from the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said that Russia has the highest number of illegal immigrants in the world, accounting for 7 percent of the country’s working population.