After last week’s police raids [en] on outdoor markets throughout Moscow, thousands of allegedly illegal migrants working at the markets have been detained and placed in makeshift camps while the authorities decide how to process them. Photographer, blogger, and urban development activist Ilya Varlamov managed to get access to one of these detention centers and photograph it. Varlamov later blogged [ru] about his experience, describing the conditions as deplorable:
Лагерь представляет из себя просто палатки, которые стоят на голом асфальте. Даже настила нет. Нет нормальной воды, нет электричества. Вообще люди в лагере по-моему не понимают, что с ними происходит.
The camp simply consists of tents, standing on bare asphalt. There isn't even anything lining the asphalt. There is no good water, no electricity. Generally, in my opinion, people in the camp don't understand what's happening to them.
Varlamov's post got over 700 responses. Many of them were dismissive of his sentiments. For example, one commenter wrote [ru]:
Не вижу дагов на фото
I don’t see any “Dags” [derogatory term for Dagestanis] in these pics.
He was likely referring to a fact that most of those detained were Vietnamese nationals who work menial jobs at the markets. Unlike workers from Russia's south and from the former Soviet republics, the Vietnamese are not usual suspects when Russian nationalists talk about the “migrant problem.” Another user replied snidely:
Может, потому что Дагестан — это Россия, а они — граждане?
Maybe that's because Dagestan is part of Russia, and they [Dagestanis] are citizens?
One reader from Krasnodar, a region in the south of Russia noted:
не только в москве такая тема. у нас уже не один год стоит
stuff like this isn't only happening in Moscow. we've had one [of these camps] for many a year
Russia has one of the largest migrant populations of the OECD countries — 11 million migrants live there according to a recent OECD report [en]. Because Russia has a relaxed freedom of movement regime with former Soviet republics, many of these migrants are in the country legally (although some of them do not have work permits). Other migrants, however, such as the Vietnamese in Varlamov's example, are illegal and are subject to deportation.
This large foreign migrant population, combined with extensive internal migration from Russia's autonomous republics is partly to blame for a resurgence of nationalist views over the last few years. Alexander Afanasyev, a blogger, posted a video of several migrants being detained by police, applauding [ru] the new development and the harsh police tactics:
Я считаю, что полиция действовала очень грамотно. Мигрантов было примерно в 10 раз больше, чем полицейских. Что у них на уме − никто не знает. Возможно, если бы не принятые меры, мы получили бы еще один случай расправы над полицейскими. Ну а по поводу ощущений самих гастарбайтеров и их дискомфорта, я хотел бы задать вопрос − а кто нибудь их сюда заставлял приезжать? Звал?
I believe that the police acted very wisely. There were about 10 times more migrants than the police. Who knows what they were thinking? Possibly, if not for the precautions, we would have another attack on a policeman. And about the feelings of the migrant workers and their discomfort, I'd like to ask a question — did anyone make them come here? Did anyone invite them?
Back on Varlamov's blog, several people tried to educate [ru] their fellow readers:
У них просто средств нет, чтоб вернуться домой. Билет москва-сайгон стоит около тысячи долларов.
They just do not have the money to return home. Tickets from Moscow to Saigon cost nearly 1000 dollars.
а билет Сайгон-Москва бесплатный?
and is a ticket from Saigon to Moscow free?
Another reader explained [ru] how the Vietnamese migrants get to Moscow:
эти люди приехали за счет компании по контракту работать в россии на период 1-3 года. за это время окупается и билет, и проживание, и еще немного\много денег они отправляют родственникам во Вьетнам.
потом, по окончании контракта, некоторые из них (меньшинство, кстати) “сбегают”… и продолжают, уже нелегально, жить в РФ.
these people came at the expense of a company which contracted them to work in Russia for a period of 1-3 years. during this time they cover the cost of ticket and living expenses, and send a little/a lot of money to their relatives in Vietnam. later, when the contract is over, some of them (a small part) “run off”… and continue to live in Russia illegally.
Some bloggers, like social activist Mitya Aleshkovsky, have already started calling the detention centers “concentration camps,” because of the living conditions, while the writer and politician Eduard Limonov called [ru] them “a crime against humanity.” Aleshkovsky was also skeptical [ru] of how effective such centers are:
основной ужас заключается даже не в самом факте существования концентрационного лагеря в столице нашей родины. Основной ужас в том, что существование концентрационного лагеря в Москве — это все чистой воды по-ка-зу-ха.
the awful thing isn't even the fact that a concentration camp exists in our capital. The awful thing is that the existence of a concentration camp in Moscow is simply show-man-ship.
LiveJournal blogger LED Storm likewise thought [ru] that the real problem was closer to home:
главным источником криминалитета на рынках являются сами менты.
the main source of criminal activity at markets are the cops themselves.
For some [ru], however, the situation is simply black and white:
закон они нарушили – нелегальное пересечение границы и нахождение в стране без регистрации
they broke the law — crossing the border illegally, and staying in the country without registering.
Meanwhile, a poll [ru] released on August 7 by the state-run VTsIOM polling agency revealed that 74% of Russians have negative feelings about the influx of migrant labor. Fifty-three percent of those polled said they favor stricter immigration laws.