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Russia: Role As Buffer Zone For Illegal Immigration Continues

Prague, 16 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - A Russian government official said today Russia was still the biggest buffer zone for illegal immigration to Central and Western Europe.

In an interview with RFE/RL, Tatyana Regent, the head of the Russian Federal Migration Service, said illegal immigrants in Russia at present were thought to number some 700,000 people. Regent said most of the illegal immigrants were coming to Russia via former Soviet republics, mainly in Central Asia, because of the visa-free travel regime within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Regent is in Prague for an international conference on illegal immigration, which ended yesterday. She said relations with former Soviet states, as well as with countries illegal immigrants originally came from, had to be considered when it came to re-admission of illegal immigrants.

Regent said re-admission of immigrants is one of the biggest problems Russia now faces in its illegal immigration strategy. Regent said the main destinations for illegal immigrants in Russia currently were Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania, with people-smugglers charging from 10 (for Belarus) to $1,000.

Regent said she hoped an agreement on joint efforts in combatting organized crime will be reached at a forthcoming meeting of CIS leaders in Chisinau later this month, which would help in fighting people-smuggling.

She said current efforts of the Federal Migration Service are focused mainly on resettling displaced persons, mostly Russian-speakers, from former Soviet republics.