Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Volunteer Squads Chase Illegal Migrants In Russia

Volunteer patrols, which hark back to Soviet times, have seen a revival in recent months in the Russian capital. Moscow's Cossacks recently stepped up their joint patrols with local police.
Volunteer patrols, which hark back to Soviet times, have seen a revival in recent months in the Russian capital. Moscow's Cossacks recently stepped up their joint patrols with local police.
By Claire Bigg
Moscow authorities have announced the creation of a volunteer squad to help track down illegal migrants, a move human rights advocates say opens the door to abuse and violence.

Hours later, as dusk settled on February 12, a dozen volunteers donning dark-red vests with the inscription "immigration patrol" were dispatched into the streets.

Aleksandr Kislitsky, a former policeman, told Russian television Channel 1 he was eager to assist migration officials.

"They detain citizens or check documents. Volunteers help them accordingly. They also help explain things, or [help] if the person tries to run away," Kislitsky said.

More than 300 people have already applied to take part in the patrols. Moscow authorities say they are aiming for a total of 600 volunteers.

Officials insist that squad members are carefully screened and undergo compulsory training. Aggressive individuals and ultranationalists, they say, are rejected.

But rights advocates are nonetheless sounding the alarm.

"I'm very upset by the rise of xenophobia that I observe in the city and in the country," says Svetlana Gannushkina, a prominent human rights campaigner specializing in migrants' rights.

"These raids will be conducted not by law enforcement organs but by ordinary citizens, and I can just imagine what kind of enthusiasts will participate. They will bring nothing but more xenophobia, abuse, and divisions in society."

Xenophobic sentiments are widespread in Russia, where dozens of members of ethnic minorities are killed every year in racially motivated attacks.

Rights campaigners like Gannushkina fear the creation of such squads will only fan ethnic tensions.

Authorized To Harass

Aleksei Mayorov, the head of Moscow's security department, said the group included more than 300 members. He said the volunteers would don special uniforms and patrol every neighborhood on a daily basis.

They will search for illegal migrants at markets, construction and industrial sites, railways stations, shopping centers, and even in private apartments.

But most alarming for rights campaigners is the volunteers' license to apprehend suspects and hand them over to police.

"Who has the right to detain people? You need very serious reasons to detain people, even police officers don't always have the authority to do it. And now it is bestowed to random and probably aggressive people," Gannushkina says.

"No one has the right to deprive people of their freedom, to grab them in the street and drag them somewhere. What are we turning into? This is simply monstrous."

Read Next: Being Gay In St. Petersburg Gets Even Harder

Volunteer patrols, which hark back to Soviet times, have seen a revival in recent months in the Russian capital. Moscow's Cossacks recently stepped up their joint patrols with local police.

Russian Orthodox activists, too, formed volunteer groups to protect churches and cemeteries after the feminist punk collective Pussy Riot staged a performance at Moscow's largest Orthodox cathedral.

Claire Bigg

Claire Bigg covers Russia, Ukraine, and the post-Soviet world, with a focus on human rights, civil society, and social issues. Send story tips to​


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Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
February 12, 2013 18:47
The silly and the dangerouse initiative of the authorities.Cossacks failed during their participation in Chechen wars and are often called mummers.The use of the ethnick minority(patriotic though ) against the other ethnik minorities or foreigners is the Russian invention,though the memory of the Cossack`s whip is alive in the country.

by: jack from: USA
February 12, 2013 20:32
Good for Russia,we need such initiative in my country.
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
February 12, 2013 23:50
Right on,Jacko,hoping you team up with Eugenio to track,detain and bring back to Mother Russia all KGB spies and left wing loonies the US can do without!!!

by: Fred Eidlin from: St. Petersburg (Russia)
February 13, 2013 09:40
Are not such volunteer groups manifestations of civil society gathering strength in Russia? Not all manifestations of civil society are positive in character. As Sheri Berman shows in her 1997 article, "Civil Society and the Collapse of the Weimar Republic," pre-Hitler German had a robust civil society. Yet Weimar's rich associational life, "provided a critical training ground for eventual Nazi cadres and a base from which the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) could launch its Machtergreifung (siezure of power)." Hopefully, other segments of Russia's emerging civil society will help guard against the potential dangers of the voluntary associations discussed in this article.

by: Mamuka
February 13, 2013 12:15
Russia has a declining birth rate and needs migrant workers to keep its economy growing. People in the former republics have few economic options and will continue to seek work in Russia, legally if they can, illegally if they have to. An approach like this cossack patrol does little to resolve the issue. Meanwhile the state of the Russian language in the "near abroad" continues to deteriorate, which also makes matters worse for labor migrants.

chto i delat? What is to be done???
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 14, 2013 10:20
Mamuka just put his finger on it: if there is anything that this story reveals, it is that the Russian ECONOMY is GROWING, and this is the major reason for which so many people from the outside come to look for work in this country.
And compare this to what is happening in such EU and NATO member states as Spain or Portugal: some 10 years ago many people from countries like Argentina or Ecuador were coming to Spain to look for work and today they are all leaving Europe and going back to their countries, because there are simply NO JOBS here: neither for migrants nor for natives.
In the case of Portugal, SEVERAL HUNRED THOUSAND of the nationals of this EU and NATO member state are believed to have left Europe to go and look for work in such places as Brasil or Angola.
Thank you, Europe! Thank you, Frau Merkel!

by: Ben
February 13, 2013 14:12
Claire,I try to add your ordered twaddle with some common sense and historical knoledge by my comments.But you feel yourself comfortable with the silly comments that stress your great intellect.

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