Are you tired of reading and listening about
the tragedies of migrants? However, recently the problem of migration
gained a new accent - as a threat to national security! This means
a threat to each of us. Does this mean that the state does the
correct thing virtually announcing a war to "all new migrants?
But there is another point of view. Recently the All-Russia
Extraordinary Congress for Protection of Migrants was held in
Moscow. It was initiated by the Forum of Migrant Organisaitons.
The co-organisers of the congress were: the Moscow Helsinki Group,
Memorial, the public movement "For Human Rights " and
a number of other well-known human rights organisations. Financial
support was rendered by the Swiss and Dutch embassies, the Open
Society Institute (the Soros Foundation), International Organisation
on Migration and two Duma factions - the Union of Right-Wing Forces
An interview with Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the Yabloko party
on the results of the congress
Question: The Yabloko party is not very
rich, however, it could afford the congress. Mr. Yavlinsky, pardon
me for the cynical question: was it a PR action on the threshold
Yavlinsky: It would be very naive to expect
any political benefits while protecting migrants. Many of them
will not be allowed to participate in the elections. The repressive
law on Russian citizenship, which actually caused the emergent
congress, turns all former Russian compatriots from CIS countries
into foreigners. Even those, who had already moved to Russia but
have been unable to receive citizenship because of various bureaucratic
obstacles, are now considered illegal migrants.
Question: Once a famous politician explained
honestly, "If we declare protection of migrants a priority
of our programme, at best three million migrants and a million
of their friends and relatives will vote for us. But do you know
how many native Russian voters we will lose? "
Yavlinsky: Migrant phobia, which is being actively
spread by the authorities and the official media, is catching
the population and could really adversely affect the party protecting
migrants. For instance, in the most recent elections Yabloko lost
about half its voters, as it opposed the war in Chechnya, which
was popular at that time. However, we assumed that risk then.
Now we object to the war against migrants. The Yabloko faction
unanimously voted against the anti-migration law on citizenship.
Yabloko cannot accept a policy which turns Russia into a country
with closed doors.
Question: The US, Canada, Israel, Australia
developed due to the energetic nature of migrants. Why do you
think such a large country as Russia is unwilling to receive its
Yavlinsky: The main reason is the total absence
of any conscience and morals in the Russian elite.
Question: You say: morals, conscience -
this is unusual for a politician at present. But you are an economist,
why don't you mention economic reasons?
Yavlinsky: Because I do not want to lie and
justify the anti-humane and anti-state migration policy by referring
to economic difficulties. There are 60% of economically profitable
resources in the Russian Urals, while there are only three people
per square kilometre there. Whereas Russia's neighbours have 178
people per square kilometre. Isn't it obvious that by rejecting
migrants, Russia which loses 700,000 people a year, will soon
be unable to maintain its sovereignty in Siberia and in the Far
East? That is why not migrants, but the prevention of migration
is the real threat to the security of Russia.
Question: Even local residents are leaving
Siberia and the Far East. Are we going to deport migrants there
locked in GULAG carriages?
Yavlinsky: There are various economic methods
and programmes, which will help attract migrants to the places
where they are needed. In particular, preferential loans, the
allotment of land, release from army service and so on.... All
these techniques were inveninvented under Catherine the Great
and worked then. However, at presentthe Russian top politicians
are concerned only about their own well-being and migrants are
an annoying hindrance. It is not an accident that while discussing
the law on citizenship in the Duma, a presidential spokesman called
former Soviet citizenships, who he thinks have flooded Russia,
Question: Mr. Yavlinsky, why do you think
President Putin invited our former compatriots to move to Russia
for over a year and then signed the aforementioned law on citizenship,
which does not allow them to return now?
Yavlinsky: I approve the congress' resolution
on the illegitimacy of the law on citizenship. The law was passed
in breach of regulations: important amendments supported by the
majority f deputies in the second reading had mysteriously disappeared
by the third reading. Yabloko is preparing an appeal to the Constitutional
Court concerning this issue. During a recent meeting of Duma factions
with the President we believed that we had convinced Putin that
the law on citizenship should be amended to alleviate the fate
of our former compatriots. Why did the President sign the law?
I think the events of September 11 in the United States were decisive
here: all Western countries have toughened their migration legislation
out of fear of terrorism. However, Russia cannot model itself
on the West: migrants to Russia are mostly former compatriots,
while criminal "guests " are able to buy all they want.
As for the change in migration policy - it is quite common for
Russian arbitrariness. For instance, the law on citizenship prevents
people from moving to Russia. The law on alternative civilian
service has been so distorted that it will force young people
to escape from the country. The law on the governors' right to
be reelected as many times as they want, which was recently approved
by the Constitutional Court, provides carte blanche for corruption:
to steal as much as possible until 2013. In addition, the Duma
approved of the import of nuclear waste into the country.
There is no need to ask why depopulating Russia does not need
migrants: our state does not need people at all! The law on citizenship,
the law on alternative civilian service is reactionary, unprofessional
and reflects reactionary ignorance by the ruling elite of Russia.
From the standpoint of the state, it is a most dangerous suicidal
Question: But if the state does not need
us, citizens, why do we need such a state?
Yavlinsky: Only a strong state is able to protect
people's rights. When Russians elected as President a person from
an unpopular profession, they hoped that this individual would
be able to put the state in order. The grouping that secured Putin's
election was unpleasantly surprised to find out that Putin had
turned into an independent statesman with his own views on the
situation instead of protecting their corporate interests. He
is in a difficult situation, as he meets powerful resistance everywhere.
It is no wonder that Putin has drawn on the people he trusts.
But his former colleagues have not had an internal change and
they still have the same Soviet totalitarian psychology. Unfortunately,
Putin inherited a very weak state with no institution to protect
human rights. The interests of the elite which passes itself off
as the state absolutely diverge with the interests of society.
So far the president is unable to protect the state from bureaucratic
aggression. That is why the law on alternative civilian service
corresponds to the standards of Defense Ministry generals. The
Nuclear Power Ministry pushes for the import of nuclear waste
against the interests of society. The Interior Ministry is interested
in the lawfulness of migrants: it allows them to take bigger bribes.
Question: Is there a way out for
Yavlinsky: If the state is unable to protect
them, they should appeal to society, to regular citizens. Soon
normal people will realize that the state is betraying their own
compatriots. When society’s attitude to newcomers changes,
the fates of migrants will also change abruptly. It is very good
that the Russian migration movement has demonstrated its civil
maturity. Now it is necessary to have the authorities fulfill
the demands of the Emergency Congress.