MOSCOW, May 16 (RIA Novosti) – The Moscow Region acting governor has called for introduction of a visa regime for citizens of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) travelling to Russia, in response to the rising number of illegal migrants in the region.
“At least 20 percent of the population in the Moscow Region are migrants,” acting Governor Andrei Vorobyov said. “If we fail to regulate this process it will go astray.”
Vorobyov said he supports President Vladimir Putin’s initiative to introduce visas for residents of the member states of the CIS, which consists of former Soviet republics.
In his State of the Nation address in December, Putin called for an end to the practice of allowing citizens from post-Soviet republics to enter Russian territory on their national (internal) passports by no later than 2015.
The issue is a thorny one for the Russian government, which has to balance public disquiet over immigration with the economic necessity of bringing in labor to make up for Russia’s shrinking working age population.
Most former Soviet republics, including Russia, retain the internal passport, which in the Soviet Union served as an ID card, a record of place of residence and other important information.
Under existing agreements, Russia allows visa-free entrance to national passport holders from the CIS countries, including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
Russia has the world’s largest number of illegal migrants, accounting for almost seven percent of the country’s working population, according to the 2012 International Migration Outlook report published by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
According to the global body’s report, 960,000 temporary labor migrants came to Russia in 2010, more than twice as many as those entering the United States.
Russia has recently introduced new rules requiring foreign workers in certain trades to show a minimum knowledge of the Russian language.