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Kurdish Immigrants Unwelcome In Southern Russia

MAIKOP, Russia -- Political organizations in Russia's Republic of Adygeya are calling for a crackdown on illegal Kurdish immigration, but republican authorities say they are powerless to act, RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service reports.

Kurds began settling in Adygeya 15-20 years ago, and their relatives continue to join them there. The largest concentrations of Kurds are in Maikop, the republican capital, and in the Krasnogvardeysk district where, according to last year's Russian census they already outnumber the indigenous Adygs (Circassians).

The Union of Slavs of Adygeya claims Kurds account for almost one-third of the population of Krasnogvardeysk.

Of the republic's total population of 442,000, 20 percent are Adygs and 58 percent ethnic Russians. Assessing the total number of Kurds is problematic because they do not always register marriages and the birth of children.

Aleksandr Ivashin, who heads Adygeya's Migration Service, explains that many Kurds have either no identity documents or fake Soviet-era passports, and Russian law precludes deporting anyone whose citizenship is unknown.

Krasnogvardeysk district head Vyacheslav Tkhetlanov nonetheless says the Interior Ministry and the Migration Service should make a greater effort to determine the identity of each Kurd and where he or she came from.

But he, too, acknowledges the problems inherent in trying to deport illegal immigrants.

Union of Slavs of Adygeya Chairwoman Nina Konovalova complains that Kurdish families have between 12-15 children, for whom they claim allowances.

At the same time, she continued, the Kurds make a living from selling produce from their plots of land but pay no taxes and therefore constitute a drain on the republic's budget.

The largest Kurdish communities are in Turkey, Iran, and Iraq, but there are also sizeable populations of Kurds in Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia.