Hundreds of slaves freed in Moscow

Raids against illegal migrants brought unexpected results. Source: RIA Novosti

Raids against illegal migrants brought unexpected results. Source: RIA Novosti

Human rights activists say that most of the Vietnamese immigrants detained in a raid are not just immigration law infringers, but also victims of slavery.

Human rights activists believe that roundup of illegal immigrants carried out in Moscow has revealed a much more serious issue – slavery. They are calling on the government to send the former slaves back home as soon as possible, and to lay criminal charges against the businessmen involved in this exploitation.

Inspections conducted in the very problematic Golyanovo District in the east part of Moscow found an underground factory where hundreds of illegal migrants, mostly from Vietnam, were working. The reception centre, where people are kept before deportation, could not fit all the detainees. Therefore, the authorities had to deploy a tent camp for 900 people.

Human rights activists quickly intervened in the situation and started assisting the detained illegal immigrants. The temporary tent camp has a dry cleaner, and a place for charging cell phones. Drinking water and food are brought in for the detainees.  Human rights activists say that most of the detained Vietnamese are not just immigration law infringers, but also victims of illegal exploitation, in other words, they are slaves.

Is Moscow facing a slavery emergency?

The temporary tent camp in the eastern part of Moscow. Source: ITAR-TASS

“I announced in the presence of all law enforcement agencies that this camp contains former slaves. They are victims. Now we need to interrogate them, and initiate criminal charges for the use of slave labour, for unpaid salaries and illegal businesses. Information for a large criminal case can be collected here. It is important to find the organisers, who have earned tens of millions dollars on these people,” says Vladimir Osechkin, head of the Gulagu.net social network, which assists prisoners.

The human rights activist believes that it is necessary to seize the property of the slaveholders, and that this money should be used to pay compensation to the victims. “It is obvious, that these people were not paid, and they were kept in unacceptable conditions. In the camp, I have not seen investigators from the public prosecutor’s office, who could work on these issues. The fact that illegal immigrants are not interrogated, and the details about their work are not sought out, indicates the unwillingness of authorities to conduct a complete and thorough investigation,” Osechkin expressed his indignation. He noted that an anti-corruption investigation should also be carried out, since such a huge production could not exist without the knowledge of local officials.

The human rights activist says that by now, information about the migrants has been sent to the embassies of their home countries, and in a couple of days, as soon as their documents are prepared, they will be sent home.

Nikita Mkrtchyan, a member of the Institute of Demographics of the Higher School of Economics, does not exclude the possibility that there really are former slaves among the detainees in Golyanovo. “Trafficking in human beings is a global problem, and it exists in all countries. Russia is also a country that has problems of illegal exploitation and less frequently, it also experience thefts of its own people,” he explained. The scientist notes that such cases should be dealt with by the police in cooperation with human rights activists. “The fact is that people, who have found themselves in a difficult situation, are often afraid to go to the police, but they do trust human rights activists,” concluded Mkrtchyan.

The fact that in the camp there are people that were forcedly exploited is also noted by Danila Medvedev, a human rights activist from the Russian Trans-Humanitarian Movement. He writes in his blog that last year it was in Golyanovo that he personally encountered slavery in Moscow. Back then, they managed to free 10 women, but the police tried to accuse these slaves of “illegal migration”. He says that no criminal charges for slavery and slave trade were made in that case. The human rights activist says that the enterprises with illegal immigrants, closed in the eastern part of the capital city, are not the only ones, but even one closed factory is a great step forward. “These people were rescued and freed. They do not understand everything that is happening to them, because previously in Moscow they only knew the factory, where they were kept as slaves. They do not know what to expect, but for them this camp is a place where they get some rest from the exhausting slave labour, 12–14 hours a day without salary – and deportation is a chance for them to return to a normal life at home, and not a punishment. An illegal migrant, who does not obtain a work permit, but is free and works for a salary, is not the same as a slave, having no rights and working with no pay for the owner,” concluded the blogger.

According to the media, more than one million real slaves work in the Russian economy. Moreover, these statistics are 13 years old. However, Danila Medvedev says that nothing serious has been done over the past decade in Russia to combat slavery, and the situation may have become even worse.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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