Russian authorities set up a detention camp for illegal immigrants, after 4,500 of them were arrested in Moscow during raids on garment factories and markets. The arrested illegals were Vietnamese, Syrians, Egyptians, and Moroccans, along with the usual citizens of former Soviet Central Asian republics. Raids are now taking place in St. Petersburg, where Russian police already arrested hundreds of people.
A brutal attack at Moscow's Matveyevsky market, which left a policeman hospitalized with a fractured skull outraged Russians and spurred the authorities into action. The attack took place when cops tried to arrest eighteen-year-old Magomed ( the Russified version of "Muhammad") Magomedov for raping a fifteen-year-old girl. Magomedov, who came to Moscow to help his parents sell counterfeit clothes, confessed on video that he "groped and undressed the still little, underage" girl. When officers attempted to detain Magomedov, his relative Magomed Rasulov, ran up to them and fractured a detective's skull with a pair of brass knuckles. This outrage, perpetrated in broad daylight in the middle of Moscow, spurred Russian police into action.
The problem of "illegal migrants", which I have described elsewhere, plagued Russia for about two decades now, since the Soviet Union collapsed and the non-Russian republics rapidly descended into poverty. Current estimates state that there are at least a million of Uzbeks and Tajiks in Moscow and the surrounding region. While citizens of other former Soviet republics like Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan can be deported, Muslim migrants from the lawless autonomous Islamic republics of Dagestan and Chechnya are citizens of the Russian Federation. The two troublemaking Magomeds, for example, are natives of Dagestan, which made it very hard to keep them out of Moscow.
The measures taken by Russian cops, seem to be designed to quiet down the outrage in the Russian media and social networks, and are likely not the sign of a true, sophisticated crackdown on illegal immigration. Unlike in other countries plagued by mass illegal immigration, the Russian public would support strong measures against illegal immigrants. However, the rampant corruption prevalent in Russian government agencies and their dire ineffectiveness stand in the way of any such measures.
Eugene Girin is a New York-based attorney and commentator.