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January 2012, Volume 19, Number 1

Russia, Eastern Europe

Russia. Since 2005, Russian nationalists have used a November holiday to rally against the presence of foreigners in Russia and to call for an end to immigration from Muslim Caucasus nations such as Tajikistan. Shouting "Russia for Russians" and "Migrants today, occupiers tomorrow," about 5,000 mostly young men marched through the outskirts of Moscow on November 4, 2011 in an march authorized by the government.

A profile of Caucasus migrants emphasized that Central Asians are often visible in outdoor jobs shunned by Russians, including working on construction sites and hauling goods by hand. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan may be most dependent on jobs and remittances from migrants in Moscow; remittances are a third of their GDPs. After a Tajik court in November 2011 sentenced a Russian pilot to 8.5 years of hard labor for smuggling, Russian police deported hundreds of Tajik workers from Moscow, prompting a quick commutation of the pilot's sentence in Tajikistan.

Migrant workers in Moscow are divided by nationality, with Kyrgyz often filling street-sweeping jobs, Tajiks working on construction sites, and Uzbeks working in markets.

Russia's Duma in Fall 2011 considered a bill that would require guest workers to pass a Russian-language test. Supporters asserted that 60 percent of the migrants from former USSR countries such as Tajikistan do not speak Russian. Some supporters compared a Russian-language test for guest workers with tests for immigrants in Germany, Netherlands and other EU countries.

Regulating immigration more tightly will likely make it harder to achieve another government goal, raising Russia's population from the current 143 million to 145 million by 2025.

Poland. Poland allowed unauthorized foreigners in the country before December 20, 2007 to apply for two-year work-and-residence cards in January 2012, offering its third legalization program after previous programs in 2003 and 2007 drew few applicants. About two-thirds of the estimated 10,000 foreigners eligible to participate are in the Warsaw area; most are from Ukraine and Belarus.

Even though unemployment in Poland averaged 12 percent in 2011, the government is offering six-month work visas to Ukrainians, Belarusians, Russians, Georgians and Moldovans to fill jobs in agriculture and construction.

Georgia. Georgia is a country of four million (excluding Abkhazia and South Ossetia) with a per capita income of $2,700 in 2010, or $5,000 at purchasing-power parity. About half of the population is urban, but most workers are employed in agriculture.

There are a million Georgians abroad, primarily in Russia and increasingly in Europe (traveling via Turkey and Greece). Russia is the leading source of remittances, followed by Greece and Italy.

When the economy of Georgia and other ex-USSR restructured in the 1990s, residents of secondary Georgian cities and small towns that depended on one industry often suffered most, as uncompetitive factories closed. Economic development shifted toward the capital city, Tbilisi, which attracted migrants from throughout the country seeking opportunities. Kutaisi, the second largest city with almost 200,000 residents, experienced out-migration to both Tbilisi and abroad.

The Georgian government aims to spur economic development with business-friendly investment policies. Since 2005, foreigners can own agricultural land or lease it for long periods. Over half of the country's land had been turned over to private owners by 2010.

Isabel Gorst, "Russia's migrants living on the edge," Financial Times, December 16, 2011.