Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Russia: Nationalist Riots In Moscow Send Fear Through Muslim Migrant Communities

RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

Nationalist Riots In Moscow Send Fear Through Muslim Migrant Communities

By Tom Balmforth

October 14, 2013

MOSCOW -- Moscow's migrant workers have seen this story before and they believe they have reason to be afraid.

When an unidentified man -- believed to be from the Caucasus -- stabbed and killed a young ethnic Russian on October 10, triggering the capital's worst ethnic riots in three years, police made hundreds of arrests. By late on October 13, they had wrested the southern district of Biryulyovo from Russian nationalists, who had overturned cars, smashed windows and stormed a vegetable warehouse looking for migrants.

But by October 14, nearly all the rioters had been released from custody. And now, the authorities have apparently turned their sights on the migrants.

In one raid, Moscow law enforcement officials arrested 1,200 migrant workers at a vegetable warehouse that was overrun by nationalists the previous day. Another 450 were detained in northeastern Moscow, also near a vegetable market employing migrant workers.

Dzhamal, 40, an Uzbek from Tajikistan who works and lives in the warehouse, witnessed the arrests before he fled the scene -- despite having documentation to work in Russia. Speaking to RFE/RL’s Uzbek service, Dzhamal described how a team of police and migration officers arrived around 10 a.m. and arrested "all the blacks" without checking whether their documents were legitimate and made them board police buses to the station.

Azamat, 36, an Uzbek taxi driver who has lived in Moscow for eight years, is sure that migrants will end up bearing the fallout from these riots. He says many migrants have gone into hiding. "Every time, when these kinds of things happen, it is the migrants who suffer -- the people in foreign lands who have no rights or home," Azamat says. "The ones they call 'illegals.'"

Not The First Time

It is not the first time a killing has ignited nationalist fervor in and around the Russian capital. In December 2010, the murder of an ethnic Russian soccer fan by a North Caucasian man ignited riots at the foot of the Kremlin walls. Last July, in the small town of Pugacheva southeast of Moscow, the killing of a local resident by an ethnic Chechen fueled xenophobic rioting.

Animosity toward migrants has risen as migration, both internal -- from, for instance, the North Caucasus -- and external, from Central Asia and the South Caucasus, has increased. There are over 11 million foreigners registered in Russia officially, but the real figure is estimated to be higher. Many Russian citizens from the North Caucasus also face hostility.