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Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 29, 2002

Grigory Yavlinsky: Our State Does Not Need People, despite the low birth rate.

By Lidia Grafova

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 and YABLOKO.

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 of elections?

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 own refugees?

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, "trash ".

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 syndrome.

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 the migrants?

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.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 29, 2002

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