by Igor Serebryany, Liu Hongxia
MOSCOW, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- The recent xenophobia-driven unrest in Moscow could have lasting socioeconomic implications and necessitates the need to change Russia's immigration policy, said experts.
Thousands of people took to the streets and looted stores owned by immigrants after a Russian man was fatally stabbed in south Moscow last week. Authorities reacted decisively, having detained over 1,000 people and seized a suspected killer, an illegal immigrant from Azerbaijan.
Many local and federal officials spoke out these days about the urgent need to change immigration policy to avoid further ethnic and social tension in Russia.
"Radical decisions are needed," Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin said shortly after the unrest was subdued.
Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Presidential Human Rights Council, said the unrest was triggered by social problems, including problems stemming from immigration policies. "The government fails to address them, so social tension among the population grows," he told reporters.
Russian Human Rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, who proposed a parliamentary probe into the unrest, said "the main task is to work out proposals on how to solve the complicated national problem and eliminate corruption associated with it."
According to experts, many people in Russia believe that uncontrolled immigration benefits corrupted officials and greedy entrepreneurs who exploit underpaid immigrants.
Out of 1 million foreign citizens in Moscow only 400,000 have work permits, said Yuri Moskovsky, a member of the Public Council in the Federal Migration Service.
He said the immigrants hurt the Russian economy by working illegally or semi-legally as they do not pay taxes.
Police have detained over 200 illegal workers at Moscow's Biryulyovo vegetable warehouse alone, which was stormed by rooters in the unrest. Moskovsky said economic incentives are needed for businesses to stop using illegal labor.
According to the expert, there are about 38 million workers on the "gray" labor market in Russia, including domestic workers.
"Under the current economic model, being paid under the desk is beneficial to both employers and employees," he said.
Moskovsky believes that only tougher tax control could push job market players to get out of the shadow.
Alexander Fomenko, a member of parliament, believed illegal immigration, which brings in cheap labor, will benefit Russia's economy in the short term but is detrimental in the long run. "The black job market pushes salaries down and scraps incentives for technological modernization.
Vladimir Yevseev, director of the Social and Political Studies in the Russian Academy of Science, said the issue of illegal immigration cannot be solved in the absence of a change in economic model and the fight against corruption.
"For many entrepreneurs, employing underpaid immigrants is the only way to survive. Only when a businessman gets rid of hidden taxes and other corruption-related expenses will he stop hiring illegal workers," Yevseev told Xinhua.
"Until corruption on a wider scale is defeated, all efforts to solve the illegal immigration problem will be fruitless," the expert added.