With emerging economic opportunities in Russia, more and more people are migrating from the former Soviet republics and from Asia and Africa. In this interview, Vadim Kozhinov, Head of the Russian Federation of Migrants, discusses the role of the public organization, some difficulties and future visions during a recent meeting with Kester Kenn Klomegah, an independent researcher and policy consultant in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union.
Here are interview excerpts:
Q: What are the main goals of creating an organization in Moscow?
A: Historically, Russia was a multi-ethnic country, uniting hundreds of nations, different cultures and languages. Russia has always been open to friendly nations and has gladly expanded its borders for them. At the beginning of the 21st century, due to a number of economic and political events, the influx of migrants into Russia became so great that it became necessary to create a public organization that could help migrants in the process of adaptation and socialization.
Thus, in February 2007, the Russian Federation of Migrants (RFM) was established at the initiative of authoritative leaders of foreign diaspora with the support of the Office of Internal Policy of the Presidential Administration.
To date, the RFM is a public organization which unites representatives of diaspora from more than 40 countries, including both former Soviet republics – Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and countries far from Russia – India, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan and many others.
It assists migrants in studying the Russian language and getting an education, contributes to the creation of adaptation centers and ensuring the legal life of migrants. Further, the RFM is actively raising awareness about combating the spread of extremism and terrorism and promoting ethnic tolerance.
The main objectives of the all-Russian public organization “Russian Federation of Migrants” are:
- adaptation and integration of foreign citizens in the Russian Federation;
- formation of a unified database of migrants on the territory of the Russian Federation;
- assistance in the study of the Russian language, the history of the Russian Federation, the legislations of the Russian Federation, as well as various norms, rules and cultural traditions operating in the territory of the Russian Federation;
- providing legal support to migrants residing and staying in the territory of the Russian Federation;
- formation of a positive image of migrants in society;
- preparation of proposals to the relevant authorities for legislative changes aimed at improving the legal and social situation of migrants;
- support and development of public-state partnership in the implementation of the migration policy of the Russian Federation;
- assistance in attracting foreign specialists to work in the Russian Federation;
- assistance in the employment of migrants;
- assistance in preservation of traditional cultural values and historical traditions of migrants, organization of international cultural and sports events (contests, concerts, exhibitions, lectures, seminars, competitions and tournaments);
- assistance in preservation and development of interethnic and interreligious harmony, conducting outreach to migrants in order to identify and prevent conflicts on ethnic and religious grounds, to assist the authorities in implementing these goals and objectives;
- assistance to state bodies in suppressing illegal migration on the territory of the Russian Federation;
- assistance to public authorities in health issues relating to migrants and citizens of the Russian Federation;
- establishment of close ties with similar organizations of migrants from other countries in order to exchange experience and strengthen joint efforts in solving global problems of migration;
- expansion and strengthening of trade turnover between the countries with the help of national diasporas;
- assistance at the international level to the processes of people’s diplomacy;
- protection of the rights and freedoms of migrants in the fields of education, health, culture, media and publishing;
- implementation of publishing activities in order to inform the public about the goals and objectives of the organization, the work carried out, the results achieved, plans for the development of activities;
- interaction and cooperation with other public organizations to achieve statutory goals.
Q: Where do the migrants come from, which countries and how do they (majority of them) become illegal in Russia?
A: In the modern world, because of the negative processes associated with the fall in the standard of living in the country there is a migration of the population. The main cause of international migration is economic: wage differentials, improved housing conditions, higher standards and changing lifestyles.
Migration is also partly due to reasons such as wars or political conflicts, which give rise to both political and economic refugees. Currently, refugees all over the world there are more than 60 million people.
Every year, a large number of migrant workers, mainly from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and other CIS countries, a minority of refugees, come to Russia to work. For legal activities, labor migrants, as well as members of their families, must obtain permission to enter and stay and pay for activities in Russia in accordance with the Russian legislations. Otherwise, they will be in Russia illegally.
The Russian Federation of Migrants contributes to the successful integration of such citizens in the Russian Federation. As expected, currently there are many obstacles, such as legal and legislative, when refugees, for example, cannot register at the place of residence. Without registration at the place of residence, they cannot receive medical care and other social services, as well as officially get a job.
Q: So specifically, what kind of help do you offer them in this situation?
A: As I have pointed out earlier, the Russian Federation of Migrants assists migrants in studying the Russian language, the history of the Russian Federation, the legislation of the Russian Federation, as well as various norms, rules and cultural traditions operating in the territory of the Russian Federation for the successful passing of the comprehensive examination for migrant workers. The Federation also provides legal support to migrants residing and staying in the territory of the Russian Federation.
At the end of the year, it is planned to create a labor exchange to offer jobs to labor migrants located in the territory of the Russian Federation.
Q: What are the challenges in your work with these group of people?
A: Currently, the main difficulty lies in the fact that not all the categories of migrants have a vertical relationship, the diaspora is poorly formed, people are not united, so even a simple information message reaches to people for a very long time.
As a result of this, the RFM seeks to build a process in such a way that it can quickly and effectively inform people about all the news and changes. In particular, it is now planned to establish an African Diaspora Congress (ADC) to regularize all migrants from African countries living in the Russian Federation in order to assist them in resolving both legal issues and cultural adaptation.
Q: Do the Russian government or authorities recognize the important work you are doing in the country?
A: The all-Russian public organization “Russian Federation of Migrants” was organized in February 2007 on the initiative of authoritative leaders of foreign diaspora with the support of the Office of internal policy of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation and therefore we successfully work with all authorities of the Russian Federation.
Q: Do they also know that these people could be useful in the economy, something similar to how illegal workers play important roles in any country?
A: For now, we can say that most migrants in Russia work legally. Russia regularly changes the process of obtaining the necessary documents, which makes the system more understandable and transparent. Currently, those illegal migrants are in a minority in the Russian Federation, so they do not play an important role in the economic processes of the country.
Q: What are your plans and future vision for this organization?
A: The Russian Federation of Migrants (RFM) plans to continue working together with the diaspora, to assist in resolving emerging problems of the different categories of migrants in Russia, to develop initiatives to improve the overall situation of migrants in the country, to assist in the integration of migrants into the sphere of our culture, laws and traditions. Also, the Russian Federation of Migrants plans to create a labor exchange for migrants.