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The Outsiders: Russia's Labor Migrants

The lives of Russia's migrant workers have never been easy. But the year 2013 brought even greater challenges, with rising nationalism and a shaky economy making migrants the target of increased hostility and violence. The summer witnessed massive nationwide raids in which thousands of Central Asians, Caucasians, and other labor migrants were detained and sometimes deported. Migrants say their status leaves them vulnerable to extortion and abuse. Many Russians, meanwhile, have called for Moscow to impose a visa regime for visiting workers from the post-Soviet region. (20 PHOTOS)

Migrant workers at a Moscow construction site during a raid by immigration officers in January 2013. 
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Migrant workers at a Moscow construction site during a raid by immigration officers in January 2013. 

Migrant workers look through a door opening at a Moscow construction site to watch a Russian Orthodox religious procession in May 2013.
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Migrant workers look through a door opening at a Moscow construction site to watch a Russian Orthodox religious procession in May 2013.

Hundreds of labor migrants were rounded up and detained in a series of raids on Moscow markets in July 2013. The raids followed an attack in which a Russian police officer was injured.
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Hundreds of labor migrants were rounded up and detained in a series of raids on Moscow markets in July 2013. The raids followed an attack in which a Russian police officer was injured.

A Russian police officer stands guard at a tent camp for illegal migrant workers at the site of Moscow's former Cherkizovsky market in August. City authorities closed the market in 2009, alleging numerous illegal activities and safety violations.  
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A Russian police officer stands guard at a tent camp for illegal migrant workers at the site of Moscow's former Cherkizovsky market in August. City authorities closed the market in 2009, alleging numerous illegal activities and safety violations.  

Illegal immigrants from Vietnam lie inside their tent at an immigration detention camp located in northeast Moscow in August 2013. 
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Illegal immigrants from Vietnam lie inside their tent at an immigration detention camp located in northeast Moscow in August 2013. 

A tent camp for illegal migrants detained during August 2013 police raids on Moscow markets. 
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A tent camp for illegal migrants detained during August 2013 police raids on Moscow markets. 

Police officers escort detained migrant workers to a police bus following an unannounced document check at a market in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk in August 2013. 
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Police officers escort detained migrant workers to a police bus following an unannounced document check at a market in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk in August 2013. 

Many of those detained in the summertime raids were Central Asians, who make up the majority of Russia's CIS migrant workers. Many Uzbek, Tajik, and Kyrgyz workers said they had been detained despite having legal status, and had been subjected to beatings, starvation, and extortion.
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Many of those detained in the summertime raids were Central Asians, who make up the majority of Russia's CIS migrant workers. Many Uzbek, Tajik, and Kyrgyz workers said they had been detained despite having legal status, and had been subjected to beatings, starvation, and extortion.

Mass detentions have also been reported in Sochi, where labor migrants were used in preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Human Rights Watch said migrants began being rounded up in September 2013, after Krasnodar Governor Aleksandr Tkachyov called for so-called "raid brigades" to "clean up" the city's streets. 
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Mass detentions have also been reported in Sochi, where labor migrants were used in preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Human Rights Watch said migrants began being rounded up in September 2013, after Krasnodar Governor Aleksandr Tkachyov called for so-called "raid brigades" to "clean up" the city's streets. 

A police officer in Krasnoyarsk waits as a detained illegal migrant from Central Asia makes a telephone call before being deported in September 2013. 
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A police officer in Krasnoyarsk waits as a detained illegal migrant from Central Asia makes a telephone call before being deported in September 2013. 

Illegal migrants from the former Soviet republics fill out forms as they wait in a holding cell at a police station in Krasnoyarsk in September 2013. 
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Illegal migrants from the former Soviet republics fill out forms as they wait in a holding cell at a police station in Krasnoyarsk in September 2013. 

Migrant workers walk with a sheep through the village of Krasnaya Polyana, a venue for the 2014 Winter Olympics some 40 kilometres outside Sochi, in September 2013. 
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Migrant workers walk with a sheep through the village of Krasnaya Polyana, a venue for the 2014 Winter Olympics some 40 kilometres outside Sochi, in September 2013. 

Russian policemen detain a protester near the Biryuza shopping mall in Moscow in October 2013 during massive riots sparked by claims a labor migrant had killed a local Russian. The incident sparked some of the worst violence in the capital in years, with nationalists overturning cars, smashing windows, and storming a vegetable warehouse looking for migrants.
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Russian policemen detain a protester near the Biryuza shopping mall in Moscow in October 2013 during massive riots sparked by claims a labor migrant had killed a local Russian. The incident sparked some of the worst violence in the capital in years, with nationalists overturning cars, smashing windows, and storming a vegetable warehouse looking for migrants.

A total of 1,200 foreign workers were detained during the two-day sweep. 
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A total of 1,200 foreign workers were detained during the two-day sweep. 

Migrant workers line up in a fenced holding area outside Russia's Federal Migration Service office in Moscow to apply for work permits in October 2013. 
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Migrant workers line up in a fenced holding area outside Russia's Federal Migration Service office in Moscow to apply for work permits in October 2013. 

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