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April 2001, Volume 8, Number 4

Eastern Europe

Czech. The Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry released a new immigration policy proposal modeled on the Canadian point system in February 2001. Employers who want to hire skilled foreigners would offer them contracts, the foreigner would be admitted if she had enough points for age, education, and other traits. There are some 230,000 foreigners in the Czech Republic, including 57,000 Ukrainians.

Since the Velvet Revolution, the Czech Republic has become a transit point for illegal immigrants heading to Europe. Some of those are held in a former Russian army base 100 kilometers north of Prague that houses 500 of the 6,000 currently seeking asylum. In January 2001, the government said that 1,200 people applied for asylum, that equals the number that applied in 1992.

The Czech government reports that illegal immigration increased after the passage of new immigration legislation in 2000. Immigrants are now entitled to work as soon as they apply for asylum and do not have to live in asylum centers.

Poland/Hungary. The Polish Border Guard SG detained 6,613 people in 2000, up 10 percent from 1999 - for illegally crossing the state border; an additional 3,000 were denied entry into Poland. Some 280 million people- Poles and others-crossed Polish borders in 2000; 64,000 attempted entry without proper documents.

On Hungary's eastern border, a person could have never moved and had five passports since 1920, as land shifted from one country to another. Hungary's eastern borders with Ukraine and Romania are being tightened in preparation for EU entry. There is a significant wage gap in eastern Hungary--wages average $240 a month, compared to $35 a month in the Ukraine.

Yugoslavia. During Slobodan Milosevic 10 years of dictatorial rule in Yugoslavia, there was widespread emigration. Vladimir Grecic, a Belgrade-based sociologist, estimates that 30,000 college-educated people left Yugoslavia during Milosevic's rule. In October 2000, a reform government came to power, and up to 10 percent of the émigrés are believed to be returning to help rebuild the country. But, salaries are low--$100 to $130 a month.

Yugoslavia offers visa-free access to Chinese, and many Chinese migrants fly to Belgrade and then travel overland to western Europe without the proper papers. Authorities estimate that in 2000 15,000 to 25,000 immigrants passed through Yugoslavia to Bosnia and another 25,000 are presumed to have fled into Croatia, Slovenia and Western Europe.

Romania. The European Parliament in March called on the EU to end the requirement that Romanians and Bulgarians obtain visas to visit the EU. The visa requirement was imposed in December 2000, when the EU published "white and black lists" of countries- those on the black list need visas for stays of up to 90 days in EU countries.

The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council in December 2000 gave Bulgaria and Romania visa-free status in principle, but delayed the implementation until the government could show they had strengthened their legislative and institutional controls over immigration. Both countries must agree to accept the return of nationals illegally in EU nations.

Romanian officials report that about 3,700 people have been detained tying to enter the county illegally. Most came from the former Soviet Republic of Moldova and others from Iraq and Afghanistan. The number is 70 percent more than the same period in 2000, when 1,022 immigrants were detained. Part of the reason for the increase is beefed-up patrols on the Romanian border. The EU has told Romania that it must tighten border control as one of the requirements for its citizens being allowed to travel to Western Europe without visas.

The reformed Communist Party won the December 2000 elections to govern Romania, a country of 23 million in which 40 percent of residents live on less than $1 a day. Romania has been promising economic and political reforms in exchange for assistance, but has failed to make the promised changes.

Bucharest, Romania's capital, is overrun with abandoned dogs - the official estimate is 200,000, and the Brigitte Bardot Foundation has promised to sterilize 100,000 dogs in two years so strays do not have to be killed. In 2000, Traian Basescu, a former ship's captain, was elected mayor, promising to get rid of street hawkers and dogs.

Russia-Ukraine. Human Rights Commissioner of the Russian Federation Oleg Mironov said in March 2001 that there were 700,000 to 1.5 million foreigners from non-CIS countries in Russia. There were also 585,000 CIS citizens living permanently in Russia, including 144,000 Ukrainians; 123,000 Kazakhs; and 67,000 Azererbaijanis, and another 382,000 CIS citizens temporarily in Russia, including 78,000 from Azerbaijan; 72,000 from Ukraine; and 47,000 from Tajikistan. An estimated 250,000 CIS citizens are living in Russia illegally.

Russia's labor force was 72 million in January 2001, including seven million, or 10 percent, unemployed workers. Russia's GDP rose eight percent in 2000 to $242 billion, or about $1,660 for per capita for 146 million Russians.

Some expect Russian emigration to increase if economic growth enables more Russians to pay smugglers. If severe inequality in income persists, more Russians are expected to emigrate to overcome their relative deprivation. The migration infrastructure that has been developed to move migrants through Russia could easily be redirected to move Russians west.

Russia announced that it would reduce the number of border guard troops to 168,000 military and 14,500 civilian personnel by 2006.

In February 2001, Russia and the Ukraine signed an agreement that protects the rights of migrants who cross between Russia and the Ukraine in search of work or as small traders.

The Ukraine is the major source of migrants in many of the Eastern European countries that are first in line to join the EU. The Ukraine was gripped by a political crisis in February-March 2001, as opponents charged President Leonid D. Kuchma with corruption and ordering the murder of a prominent journalist, Georgy Gongadze, in Fall 2000. A leading opposition figure and former deputy prime minister, Yulia V. Timoshenko, was arrested, and there were marches calling for Kuchma's resignation.

Ukraine's sputtering economy has contributed to rising emigration, especially to nearby Poland and Hungary. Many Ukrainian women, who have the highest unemployment rates, are enticed into prostitution in western Europe. The Ukraine is a country of 50 million with a per capita GNP of $750. Russia, by contrast, has 147 million residents and a per capita GNP of $2,300.

Kuchma became Ukraine's first post-Soviet prime minister in 1992 and its president in 1994. Opposition parties have combined in a "Ukraine Without Kuchma" campaign, and recordings made by a former member of the presidential security detail suggest that Kuchma was directly involved in siphoning off Russian gas from pipelines that carry natural gas to Europe, ordering the kidnapping of Gongadze, and other unlawful acts.

At the time of the Soviet collapse and the Ukraine's declaration of independence in August 1991, the Ukraine was home to the world's third-largest nuclear arsenal, including 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles. Ukraine's nuclear weapons were subsequently moved to Russia, and the Ukraine received $2 billion in American aid between 1994 and 2000. In February 2001, the Ukraine and Russia pledged cooperation in space research and promised to reconnect their electric power grids. The Ukraine in December 2000 closed the last reactor at the Chernobyl, site of the 1986 fire and radiation catastrophe.

"Almost 3,700 illegal immigrants detained since beginning of year," Associated Press, March 12, 2001. Derek Scally, "Human cargo delivered to a cruel fate," Irish Times, March 12, 2001. Steven Erlanger, "Ethnic Hungarians Dread the Prospect of a Tightening Border," International Herald Tribune, March 8, 2001.