Corrupt schemes of making money from external labor
Labor migration is a common event. In search of better wages, thousands of people from around the world leave their families and go to foreign countries. Cut off from their usual environment, confused and unaware of the laws and regulations, migrants often turn into victims of dishonest businessmen, bribetakers from various government agencies and corrupt officials, who represent law enforcement agencies.
They work in construction, agriculture and other areas that the locals do not consider prestigious. Outsiders often face enmity and suspicions. Businessmen hire migrant workers because they can pay them very little or no pay at all. Police and migration servicemen take money from them for each paper or simply for nothing, striving on their lack of rights and ignorance of Russian law system.
Everything is possible if you have the money
For the most part, the crimes committed against migrant workers in Russia are not reflected in police reports as victims rarely turn to the law enforcers. The reason is simple - migrant workers do not believe that they will get help. Left outside the legal boundaries, they are alone with their problems and are easy prey for all kinds of hucksters and corrupt officials.
In Russia, everything is possible, just not for free. So say those who sign up the necessary papers in the Migration Service, who bribe the police, who register at a nonexistent address, and who oil all sort of leadership – from the director of the management company to the head of the municipality. This situation creates the illusion of impunity. Forgetting that the briber is no less guilty before the law than the person who receives the money, migrant workers also contribute to the growth of corruption in our country.
Employers are willing to hire guest workers, as they are less demanding of work conditions and agree on small wages. The lack of legal status does not allow these people to demand at least some right from their master. Most often, migrants are working from dawn to dusk in inhuman conditions. Their well-being and safety is the least concern of the employer.
If an accident happens, the businessman will not be held responsible. After all, officially these people do not even exist. For example, 12 people, including three children, were killed in a fire in the workshop for making linen on the Strominka Street in Moscow. They were illegal immigrants from Central Asia. The Investigative Committee opened a criminal case under Part 2 of Art. 167 of the Russian Criminal Code (Deliberate destruction or damage caused to the property, which on imprudence entailed death of a person or other serious consequences). As it turned out, fire regulations were grossly violated in the areas where dressmakers worked and lived together with their children.
In July 2016, a 50-year-old migrant worker from Uzbekistan was killed when he fell from the roof of a house on the Bolshaya Sadovaya Street in Saratov. He had no safety belt with a rope and other necessary equipment, and that was why he fell off during the work related to roof repairs. Law enforcement authorities have launched pre-investigation checks into this incident.
Another citizen of Uzbekistan has recently died in a warehouse of building materials located in the Zheleznodorozhny district of Khabarovsk. As a result of gross neglect of safety precautions, a 1-ton bag of calcite fell on a 22-year-old man. The loader died, receiving injuries incompatible with life, as stated in the official report of the regional department of the Investigative Committee.
There are countless more examples of such cases. Migrant workers die on a regular basis in Russia. Moreover, their families do not have any right to compensation, which is quite convenient for the employers. However, not all of them even bother to pay workers the promised salary.
"A ram alone will not get you anywhere in Russia"
Adylkhan Saydullaev came to Russia from Tajikistan three years ago. He sells fruits and vegetables on one of the Astrakhan markets.
- At first for me it was hard, like for everyone who turned out in another country for the first time. I had no idea how to prepare documents and where to go. Some guy offered to resolve the issue for money. The landlady of a room I rented advised to pay. She said that it would be much easier and more reliable. I had to pay 5 thousand rubles, - the migrant said.
He claims that corruption in Russia is even more extensive than in Tajikistan. And it's not only the amount of bribes, which are many times higher. At home, a lot of issues can be resolved with necessary connections. Everything goes through relatives or friends. Bribes are often taken with livestock production (sheep, cows, camels), handmade carpets, and other valuables.
- And here, a ram alone will not get you anywhere. Money is the only thing that can resolve anything here, though good connections are also important, - the migrant worker said.
But the lack of useful contacts among visitors is easily compensated by numerous intermediaries, who are also trying to make profit. In the end, officials from the Migration Service are happy, since bribers do not know them personally and by name, which guarantees the safety of law enforcement officers. Immigrants also have nothing to fear, no inconvenient questions are asked.
Adylkhan Saydullaev claims that now the local management of the Federal Migration Service of Russia is asking 10-15 thousand rubles to provide temporary registration, while three years ago it cost only 5 thousand. The migrant thinks that this increase in price is caused by strengthening of migration control in the country. Officials are now under stricter control, therefore the price of a bribe also increased.
However, visitors do not care as much about the Russian FMS, as they do about police. Saydullaev complains that every law enforcement officer tries to snatch a thousand rubles from him.
- They come to me in the street and simply demand money, threatening to otherwise cause me some serious problems, from deportation to a criminal case. They threaten to plant the drugs or to lock in a holding cell for three days for identification. The fee is set - one thousand, although earlier it was possible to negotiate for 500 rubles. But prices are rising, - the migrant regretfully says.
And all of this is despite the fact that he has the right documents. As for the illegal workers, in general, they are treated like cattle. Saydullaev heard that the police officers and the Russian FMS regularly organize raids and then sell guest workers to the employers - on construction sites, harvesting, and manufacture.
- It is as if they were slaves, - a visitor from Tajikistan grieves about the fate of his fellow countrymen.
At the same time, he believes that he has managed to settle in Russia. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always in demand. He rented a room nearby, his whole life revolves around the market. Apart from the neighbors among vendors, Saydullaev rarely speaks to anyone. He is trying to save money on a car. However, with no success for now. He sends half of his earnings to his mother and younger brothers in Tajikistan, to protect them from misery; the rest he spends on bribes, extortion and related costs. Indeed, the life in Russia is not cheap.
"Everyone was happy to know that I am alive"
A citizen of Uzbekistan Nazarbek Akhmedkhanov had survived many adventures in Russia. He told our correspondent that he faced unscrupulous employers twice.
Trying to earn some money for his wife and three children, the man arrived in the Astrakhan Region in July 2014. At the station, he was almost immediately noticed by the police. They took the migrant to the apartment, where they already had about 20 people from Central Asia. One of the fellow countrymen said that they were gathered there going to go to work.
- I did not know Russian back then, I was at a loss. Did not even try to run, because my passport was confiscated by the police. Where would I go? About a day later, when more than 30 people gathered in the apartment, we were loaded into a bus and driven to some field, - Akhmedkhanov recalls the events that happened two years ago.
Together with other migrants, he first collected tomatoes, and then he was assigned to load watermelons. It was hot, and the workers were living in trailers near the agricultural plantations. Every morning, a local resident, whom everyone called the foreman, determined the scope of work. In the evenings, the harvest was taken away from the field. They were fed twice a day, very poorly, with expired canned food and horrible broth. Household conveniences were out of the question.
Nazarbek Akhmedkhanov endured all of it for one purpose - to make money. Although the foreman did not reply to questions about wages, migrant workers still hoped that they would be paid. But the workers were deceived. When the harvest was completely gathered, in September 2014, migrants were simply put on a bus and sent back to Astrakhan. When one of them asked a stern-looking man, who worked as an assistant to the foreman, about the wages, he replied that they should be grateful for shelter and food provided to them for two months. And those who would rebel, would not receive their passports back.
After such a threat, migrants remained silent all the way. Upon arrival in the city, they got their passports and were left at the station.
Then Akhmedkhanov worked in construction and lived again with his compatriots in the trailer cabins. He thought about his wife and children waiting for money from him, while he had none. The supervisor promised salary, but the migrant recalled his bitter experience and no longer had any hopes. One evening, he and his companion in misfortune simply left the construction site and went elsewhere. They wandered for a long time, and by morning were on the outskirts of Astrakhan. Accidentally, they saw a house was being built at one of the private sector areas. Desperate, they asked the owners to provide them any work. This time they were lucky. The hosts were nice people, who sheltered them and treated properly.
- I sent home my first earned money, nearly 3 thousand rubles, only six months after I had arrived in Russia. And all this time, I could not even contact my relatives. They did not know what was going on with me. Everyone was happy that I’m alive, Nazarbek Akhmedkhanov said.
Having learned the language a bit more and, he settled down and received temporary registration and a work permit. He paid no bribes to anyone, because he did not have the money anyway. He honestly survived the long queues in the migration service, faced terrible bureaucracy, but ultimately overcame all the administrative obstacles.
The man says that it is better to work for private customers than enterprises and companies, which only need slave labor. Akhmedkhanov is currently rendering construction and repair services, he developed regular customers.
- I miss my homeland. Will be staying here to work for a year or two more, and then I will finally go finally. Otherwise the kids would grow into adults without me, - the man said, sharing his plans for the future.
Beyond legal field
Naturally, foreign citizens also commit crimes in Russia. But we must distinguish between internally displaced people who have left their homes as a result of various disasters or acts of war, and guest workers who came for a limited period for the purpose of earning.
Migrant workers tend to set a specific goal. For example, to earn money for the son's wedding, or something of the kind. Such a person is interested in a prosperous activity and contributes to the economic development of our country by building houses, repairing roads, harvesting, sewing clothes, and sweeping the streets.
However, migrant workers are not part of the socio-political and cultural life of the Russian society. For the most part, they do not know the name of the governor or the mayor of the city where they work. They care little about a Fisherman's Day celebrated by the citizens, or some other special holiday for the indigenous population. Speaking exclusively with their friends, including due to poor knowledge of the Russian language, migrant workers attract the attention of criminals and often agree to openly dangerous or outright illegal activities.
For instance, certain Akhmed Akhmedov and Bekhruz Saidov will soon appear before the court in the Oryol Region. According to the staff of the regional department of the Investigative Committee, they are guilty of the death of five citizens of Tajikistan. The suspects hired migrant workers to carry out an illegal tie-in into the Kuibyshev-Bryansk pipeline. The aim of the offenders was to steal diesel fuel. Having inhaled the exhaust gas originated from using a gasoline generator in an underground tunnel, the workers died. The suspects carried their bodies to different places and left there in an attempt to hide their crime.
And thanks to corrupt officials from various state agencies, migrants find themselves out of legal field. They face situations when the key problems of infrastructure development in Russia are impossible to resolve without bribes and connections, without an ability to negotiate with the right people. Scammers often diddle out the last of migrant workers’ money, promising to prepare the necessary documents. Criminals take advantage of the fact that the newcomers know nothing about Russian laws, and that they have problems with adaptation to an unfamiliar socio-cultural environment.
Disenfranchised people are easy prey for various corrupt officials and businessmen. The indifference of society to the problems of migrant workers is a common thing in many countries. In the US, visitors from Latin America face similar problems. In Western Europe, the same goes for the citizens of Romania, Albania, and other countries. And in Russia, few people are concerned about the problems of migrant workers from Central Asia.
Yet in our country, this phenomenon has its own peculiarities. If Americans and Europeans do not compete with migrants in the labor market, the lack of decent jobs for local residents, an acute issue in some regions, can lead to increased social tensions. Therefore it is necessary to revise an approach to this issue, to provide that the Russian economy with workers, but at the same time ensure that the migrant workers have at least some personal and labor rights.
Lieutenant General Oleg Troshin announced he is going to retire in May 2018. He is doing it following a decision taken a year ago – not due to non-existent issues with the agency reported by some local media outlets.