Youth Group Rallies For Closed Borders

MTMigrant laborers seeking work on Friday as a car stops to make a hire on Yaroslavskoye Shosse, where hundreds of migrants gather to look for work in private homes or dachas. Young Guard, a pro-Kremlin youth group, is calling for the country's borders to b
A pro-Kremlin youth group planned demonstrations Saturday, calling for Russia's borders to be closed to migrant laborers in 2009 and saying this was necessary to provide more jobs for Russians in times of the global financial crisis.

United Russia's Young Guard was to picket the Federal Migration Service offices and the headquarters of major developers in Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk and Khabarovsk at noon, the group said in a statement posted on its web site.

Andrei Tatarinov, deputy head of the group's central office, said in the statement that global financial difficulties had led to major layoffs, while in the construction sector, in particular, foreign laborers make up the majority of the workforce.

"We are feeding foreign workers and other states," Tatarinov said. "These positions and this money have to be given to Russian workers!"

A Federal Migration Service spokesman on Friday dismissed the initiative, saying that closing the country's borders to migrant workers would be "impossible."

"We have visa-free travel with many CIS countries," the spokesman said, on customary condition of anonymity.

He also dismissed another Young Guard proposal -- to send group members to assist the agency by patrolling the streets looking for illegal workers.

"The law doesn't allow us to take on nongovernmental organizations [in our work]," he said.

Young Guard also offered to set up job centers across the country to help Russians move into jobs formerly held by foreigners.

Saturday's rallies were to be held outside the Federal Migration Service offices on Ulitsa Verkhnyaya Radishchevskaya, the Ulitsa Barrikadnaya offices of developer PIK and the Moskva-City offices of the Mirax Group.

On Friday at around noon, hundreds of migrant laborers formed a sort of labor market along Yaroslavskoye Shosse for people needing work done on their homes or dachas. The men were strung along the highway from the junction with the Moscow Ring Road divided by nationality -- workers from Tajikistan, Moldavia, Belarus and Russian regions congregated in their own separate groups. They approached cars that stopped, hoping to be offered work.

The men said most of them had ended up looking for work along the highway after developers laid them off from construction sites, citing economic restraints, or simply refused to pay them.

"A building site hires us, and we work one, two or three months, but they don't pay us any money and just toss us out," Dzhamshi Makhmudov, 50-year-old Tajik national, said while waiting at the side of the road. "We come here because private individuals pay more."

The workers stay near Yaroslavskoye Shosse for days, sleeping close to the highway in garages or neighboring houses, he said. Police regularly rounded up men to do forced work, he said, where they are neither fed nor paid and are often beaten with batons.

A city police spokesman referred a request for comment to the Moscow region police, where another spokesman declined immediate comment.