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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ministry Gets Tough On Illegal Foreigners

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said Wednesday that authorities would begin keeping tabs on all foreigners who enter the country in an effort to crack down on illegal immigration.

Gryzlov said police would soon conduct a thorough check of all foreigners "to determine whether they are living in our country legally," Interfax quoted him as saying.

Speaking at a conference on migration policy, Gryzlov also called for the creation of a national database to track foreigners from the moment they cross the border. The measure appears to be aimed mainly at halting the flow of illegal immigrants from Central Asia and the Transcaucasus.

"There is no way to say exactly how many foreigners are living on Russian territory," Gryzlov said, according to Itar-Tass. "At border checkpoints, people entering the country are checked only in a database of people whose entry is undesirable. After that, the information about those entering disappears from the computer."

He added that under the current system expired visas are only detected if police happen to stop someone for a document check or detain a foreigner for a separate violation. He estimated the number of illegal immigrants in Russia at 1.5 million.

Gryzlov said his ministry would ask the government for additional funds to create the new database. He said the country also needed three times as many border checkpoints than it has.

Gryzlov also suggested raising the duty paid by Russian companies who hire foreigners, Itar-Tass said. Currently, companies pay 140 rubles ($4.70), while two years ago they paid 3,900 rubles ($130 at the current rate), Gryzlov said.

During his more than two years in office, President Vladimir Putin first liquidated the country's Migration Service and later the Nationalities Ministry, which he had put in charge of migration. Now the issue is wholly in the realm of the Interior Ministry, which oversees police. Human rights organizations and liberal lawmakers strongly criticized the transfer of migration enforcement to the Interior Ministry, saying police are biased against foreigners.

But an Interior Ministry spokeswoman, who refused to be identified, played down the importance of the campaign announced by Gryzlov, saying that it was just the Interior Ministry's way of making its presence felt. "The Interior Ministry must do something since it has received responsibility [for the Federal Migration Service]," she said.

(AP, MT)