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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gref Hints at Delay of Migration Law

ReutersA Federal Migration Service officer checking the documents of cafe employees at a Moscow market on Wednesday.
Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref called for caution Wednesday in implementing the immigration legislation that came into effect Monday, and raised the possibility that some provisions of the law might be deferred.

Gref, speaking during the government hour in the State Duma, told deputies that if the legislation barring foreigners from trading in indoor and outdoor markets proved ineffective in practice, the government might consider modifying them.

The new laws place a limit of 6 million work permits in 2007 for migrants from countries with visa-free travel agreements with Russia. Also, foreigners must make up no more than 40 percent of traders in markets. By April 1, foreigners will be banned altogether from trading in these markets.

Gref said he did not expect the measures to affect the availability of basic goods in the country.

"I hope that goods will not disappear from market stalls," Gref said. "The laws are aimed at regulating the normal functioning of markets and not at reducing the quantity of goods traded."

The government and the Federal Migration Service will monitor how the laws work out administratively, Gref said. He added that estimates had shown that there was sufficient time to make such assessment by April 1.

"If we see any threat, the time limit can be extended by a government decision," Gref said.

Troika Dialog analyst Anton Strutchenevsky said Wednesday that he did not foresee any significant macroeconomic fallout once migrant traders have to leave indoor and outdoor markets.

"One of the advantages Russia has at this stage of its economic development is that its work force is both skilled and mobile," Strutchenevsky said. "The chances of it being derailed by labor shortages [in the retail sector] are very, very slim."

The exit of foreign migrant traders from the country's retail markets in April will lead to higher prices for some goods, said Tatyana Chetvernina, a labor specialist at the Higher School of Economics.

"The price hikes will be the logical result of employing the more expensive Russian labor force to replace foreigners," Chetvernina said. "Food shortages are unlikely since goods traded in the markets are subject to laws of supply and demand," she said.

"Immigrants from the CIS have a restricted market for these goods in their own countries and Russia is too big a market for them to ignore."

In a separate development, Moscow police press officer Viktor Biryukov warned Wednesday that in view of terrorist threats in Moscow, all the city's markets would be raided to flush out people "who are in the city illegally," Interfax reported.

"Police officers will inspect both attics and basements of communal buildings, as well as conduct more rigorous passport checks to seek out citizens who are residing in apartment blocks illegally," Biryukov said. "Police will work in tandem with Federal Migration Service officials to inspect markets."

Major Russian cities were placed on high alert Wednesday after the security services said they had received information from foreign partners about a possible terrorist threat on public transportation.