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.


  1. Wow Dr. Staples! That is very thought provoking but also quite alarming

  2. You'll find that people make public objections only when they're told to through the media or likewise. Convenience is a thing that many North Americans take for granted. Think of recent events surrounding the March on Washington, wherein civil rights activists reenacted the famous civil rights march from 1963. Why do people wait for significant dates to have displays of public protestation when it should be happening each and every day?

    Why do governments get away with things like the NSA spying scandal, or even the undocumented worker crises in Russia, as mentioned above? Apathy. The North American public is rich with it. Why care about something when there is no expectation to; no impetus on fighting against what is wrong and fighting for what is right?

    See how quickly the public got over the wrongful pardon of George Zimmerman? There was mass outcry for changes in laws and massive protests taking over entire cities. Now it is yesterdays news, something for the people of yore to care about.

    The biggest problem we face heading towards the quarter-mark of this century is the problem of apathy. People don't care, things don't get done. People don't want to make changes? Changes don't get made. Ignite the public's need for outcry and for revolutionary change, and you ignite a revolution itself, pushing humanity towards a day where things like racism, sexism, slavery and poverty are notions only found in history books.