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May 2000, Volume 7, Number 5

Eastern Europe

Czech Republic. On February 2, 2000, the Czech government announced that to harmonize Czech visa policy with EU policies, citizens of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine will be required to obtain visas before entering; the new visa policy will go into effect by May or June 2000.

There are an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 illegal foreigners in the country. The Czech government expects the new visa requirement to decrease the number of foreigners staying illegally in the country and to reduce crime. Nationals of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine who want to legalize their stay will have to leave and apply for visas at Czech embassies or consulates abroad.

In March 2000, West Bohemian Romanies demanded compensation from the Czech government, saying that if they did not receive government funds, they would be forced to leave the country because of discrimination. A group issued a statement which said: "We will demand financial compensation from the state because the reason for our emigration is that the majority government is persecuting us for racial reasons and is consistently violating our human and civic rights."

The mass emigration of Romanies from the Czech Republic began in 1997, when many went to Canada. Canada required Czechs to obtain visas, so Romanies began applying for asylum in the UK and Scandinavia.

Slovakia. Slovakia is joining Romania on the list of countries that residents would like to leave. About 10 percent of all Slovaks, and 25 percent of those between 18 and 30, would like to emigrate, according to a recent poll.

The New York Times on April 3, 2000 profiled gypsies in Slovakia, a country of five million, including 10 percent Roma. The article noted that many Roma live outside or in segregated sections of regular towns and cities, and suffer pervasive discrimination. Many gypsies say that, since the end of Communism, discrimination has increased, and skinheads and other groups attack them while the police stand by. Local leaders are often openly anti-Roma, distinguishing the Roma from "whites."

The Slovak government reported that 4,000 Slovak citizens applied for political asylum in other countries in 1999, but that only one, an applicant in Denmark, was granted asylum. The government said that rejected asylum seekers who are returned to Slovakia are not punished in any way.

About 7,700 foreigners were detained by border police in 1999, and 1,320 applied for asylum.

Of the 205 Kosovar refugees who entered Slovakia in 1999, only 70 have returned home. At the end of 1999, the Slovak government discontinued providing temporary refuge to Kosovars and those remaining in Slovakia applied for refugee status or long-term residence.

Poland. Poland issued temporary residence permits, valid for up to two years, to 16,500 foreigners to work, study or get married in 1999. Polish authorities reported that there was an upsurge in asylum applications from Romanian Romanies, which they attributed to a crackdown at flea markets in Poland. Migration services in Poland are to be consolidated in a new Office for Repatriation and Foreigners.

Hungary. Eastern European nations that were the source of emigrants in the 1980s and early 1990s have become immigrant destinations and transit countries. Many of their residents seem to resent foreigners. A poll released in March 2000 found that 38 percent of respondents would reject all foreigners, while five percent support open borders. For more information: http://www.tarki.hu/index-e.html

Serbia/Croatia. President Milosevic has reportedly made a deal under which Serbia will naturalize 40,000 Chinese immigrants in exchange for financial support from China; the naturalized Chinese are expected to vote for the Milosevic government in upcoming elections.

The number of immigrants to Croatia was greater than the number of emigrants between 1992 and 1998, according to the Croatian Bureau for Statistics. There were 330,201 immigrants and 79,754 emigrants. Most of the immigrants were from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Zagreb had the most immigrants with 18.8 percent in 1998.

Romania/Modova. Romania's premier proposed an agreement with Bulgaria that would provide for joint border control and eliminate customs checking at their common border. Romania and Bulgaria lately have tried to up-grade border checking in order to improve the chances that their citizens will be granted visas for travel in the countries of the European Union.

The Moldovan government plans to legalize dual nationality because a growing number of Moldovan citizens are also naturalized citizens of Russia, Romania and Israel. More than 70,000 Moldovans have been naturalized by Russia and over 150,000 by Romania.

Russia. The Russian government restricts internal migration by requiring residents to have permits. To get one for Moscow, a person must prove he has an apartment in the Moscow region. Moscow has nine million legal residents and 1.5 million unauthorized residents.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov wants the registration system that makes it hard for people to move within Russia to remain in place; he says that one-third of Moscow's crimes are committed by unauthorized residents of Moscow, including foreigners. He warned that the city government would "dramatically toughen control over migrants in Moscow."

The Moscow Commission on Attracting and Using Foreign Labor announced in February 2000 that it was combining previous laws into a single document which would result in a decrease of 5,000 foreign workers permitted in Moscow. In 2000, 45,000 foreign workers will be allowed to work in the city. A spokesman for the commission said that the new restrictions on foreigners are meant to safeguard Muscovites' access to jobs, but that the commission's main responsibility is to ensure that the foreign workers have acceptable working and living conditions and are being paid on time.

The Russian labor force included 65 million employed and nine million unemployed workers in 1999. The labor ministry estimated that there are one to three million unauthorized migrants in Russia; most are from ex-USSR republics, and most migrate to Moscow. Moscow City Hall estimates that 30,000 unregistered foreigners live in Moscow - most of them from Afghanistan, Africa and Southeast Asia. In 1999, about 1,300 foreigners were deported from Moscow.


Steven Erlanger, "The Gypsies of Slovakia: Despised and Despairing," New York Times, April 3, 2000.