Putin proposes crackdown on illegal immigration
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday said repeat migration offenders should be banned from entering Russia for up to 10 years as he proposed tough new immigration rules ahead of elections.
The proposals -- also including criminal charges for employing what Putin labelled effective "slave" labour -- came days after he wrote that migrants wishing to work in Russia should pass language, history and law tests.
"We are proposing to ban entry into Russia for a period of five to 10 years -- and maybe for a more extensive term -- for those who have been caught committing repeated gross violations of migration legislation or have been deported after a court order," Putin said.
Speaking at the offices of the Federal Migration Service, he said those who employ illegal migrants should face criminal charges as opposed to fines.
"Sanctions against those who provoke illegal immigration must be strengthened," he said in televised remarks.
"This concerns both individuals and legal entities -- those who hire people without any permits and essentially use them as powerless slaves."
Putin, who is seeking to win back his old Kremlin job in a presidential election on March 4, released on Monday a far-ranging manifesto warning against attempts to stir up ethnic discord.
But he also said migration laws should be toughened up in a move seen as targeting labour migrants from impoverished ex-Soviet Central Asia who have moved to Russia in recent years in search of better pay.
Some analysts said Putin's pre-election bid openly flirted with xenophobia and sought to hijack the nationalist slogans of activists that have joined the protest movement against the strongman's 12-year rule.
Anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny -- who has emerged as one of the leaders of the protest movement -- last year attended the annual "Russian March" where nationalists shouted slogans against migrants to Russia.
© 2012 AFP