Friday, September 13, 2013
In a June 28th raid, Moscow police arrested 1400 undocumented migrant workers in the first act of a campaign that continued through the summer. By August, as the numbers of arrested exceeded 4000, the city ran short of detention cells and established an ad hoc tent prison at Golyanova in the east end of the city. According to Moscow’s interim mayor Serge Sobyanin, the arrests were justified because the 300,000 or so illegal immigrants working in the city commit most of Moscow’s crimes. Presumably the thuggish “youth groups” like Moscow Shield that stalk migrants aren’t really criminals. In Russia there is no such thing as meaningful public advocacy, despite the valiant efforts of the Russian Human Rights Watch and a handful of other organizations. While there are Russians who are appalled, they are a tiny minority. The type of people whom western liberals might expect to care are silent, or, worse yet, they support the crackdown. Alexei Navalny is the darling of the western media because he is Russia’s most articulate and effective opponent of Putin. But westerners would do well to remember that opposing Putin is not the same thing as being liberal. Navalny is an ultra-nationalist, utterly unsympathetic to the migrant workers, who are mostly from the Caucasus and Central Asia. These are the people who fill many of the least attractive manual labor jobs in Moscow. And of course, the camp was created as an election ploy, to attract support for Sobyanin – Putin’s hand-picked candidate in the Moscow mayoral election. Navalny was Sobyanin’s only meaningful opponent in the election, meaning there was no advocate for the poor souls locked up at Golyanovo. All indications are that they are living in miserable conditions. They are confined in a concentration camp (let’s call it what it is) in a country without the means or desire to provide them with a legitimate legal process, let alone proper food, clothing, sanitation, etc. There best hope, probably, is to be shipped home before they start dying of cold or disease. Or perhaps they’ll be sent to Sochi, where no one seems to mind that undocumented migrant laborers are the main labor force building facilities for the coming Olympics.