Racial hatred and violence is growing in Russia, with Central Asian labour migrants being among the groups targeted, analysts say.
“Ethnic hatred, xenophobia and violence are on the rise in Russia - so is the activity of skinheads towards non-Russians, those who do not look Slavic. Most sociological surveys confirm that,” Galina Kozhevnikova, deputy head of the Moscow-based Sova think tank, said from the Russian capital on Monday.
Attacks on foreigners have been on the rise throughout the country, especially in Moscow and St Petersburg.
According to Kozhevnikova, skinheads beat up 124 people who came from 23 different countries in 2005. Eight of the victims died immediately. In the first four months of this year there were 40 attacks related to “ethnic hatred”, resulting in six deaths.
Most discriminatory practices and xenophobic violence target non-Slavic immigrants from the former Soviet republics of the Caucasus and Central Asia, a European Research Forum on Migration and Ethnic Relations (EUROFOR) report said in 2005.
"Those who are distinctly ethnically non-Russians become targets first. As for Tajiks and Uzbeks who are in Russia illegally, they are more likely to become targets compared to African students because attacking a foreigner is a scandal. Whereas to attack a Tajik - who is not registered and does even not exist in Russia according to documents – means that nobody is going to search for him or protect him,” Kozhevnikova claimed.
In recent years, Russia has become the primary destination for labour migrants from Central Asia. Fuelled by poverty and unemployment, the number of unskilled workers from the region in major Russian provincial cities continues to rise, labour experts say.
Surveys conducted in the autumn 2005 by the Russian-based research agency, Levada Center, said 59 percent of the respondents want “to completely stop accepting foreign migrants in their country”, blaming them for crime and other social disorder.
"This slogan claiming that labour migrants are taking jobs is very popular and is being used to divert social protest from real economic problems, such as unemployment and the rising cost of living," Kozhevnikova said.
But the researcher explains that the targets are not labour migrants per se, since there are various migrants from different backgrounds and ethnic origin.
“There are anti-migrant slogans now increasingly being used when the concept of 'migrant' means someone who is not ethnic Russian. It is not just Tajiks and Uzbeks who become targets, even ethnic Tuva and Buriats [ethnic minorities in Russia with strong Asiatic features] who suffer [from skinhead attacks]," she explained.
Kozhevnikova also criticised the fact that many of these cases were being overlooked and that sometimes police reportedly closed their eyes to the activities of skinheads.
"There are not adequate measures undertaken by the authorities, because on the official level, the issue of racism in Russia does not exist. There are very few cases when these crimes are punished as racist acts," she noted.
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