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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Officials Seek to Play Down Migrants' Fears

The Federal Migration Services tried to allay fears Tuesday that new immigration legislation would create labor shortages in the country.

At a news conference called to clarify some provisions of the new laws that came into effect Monday, Federal Migration Service Deputy Chairman Vyacheslav Postavnin said the laws would benefit both foreigners and Russians.

Procedures for registration have been greatly simplified by the introduction of a one-stop shop procedure, Postavnin said

"Also, by placing a strict limit on the time within which foreigners must be registered, we will greatly reduce bureaucratic procedures involved in legalizing foreigners' status," he said.

New laws that took effect Monday place a limit of 6 million work permits in 2007 for migrants from countries that have visa-free travel agreements with Russia, most of which are in the CIS.

Postavnin also sought to clarify the status of immigrants working in the retail trade sector, including indoor and outdoor vegetable markets.

"These laws will only affect traders," Postavnin said. "Regardless of where they are from, legal immigrants can wholly own markets or stalls within markets."

Foreigners can also hire Russian citizens as traders, Postavnin said. Postavnin also dismissed the idea that the laws would create labor shortages.

"I'm not an economist, but our research both in Moscow and the regions shows that there are many Russians who are eagerly waiting to fill the void that might be created starting April 1," he said. "We are also protecting our labor force since legal immigrants are more expensive to hire than illegal aliens."

However, in the long term, the regulations could have a knock-on effect on the cost of market goods, some market analysts have said, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported.

"Labor costs for Muscovite workers are higher than those for Chinese, Tajiks or other CIS citizens," said Tatyana Chetvernina, a labor expert at the Higher School of Economics, the newspaper reported.

"Business owners will have to pay them higher salaries and, ultimately, consumers will bear the brunt of those increased costs," Chetvernina said.

Postavnin dismissed such concerns, saying goods transportation had a greater effect on market prices.

"It doesn't matter who is selling the wares," he said. "Questions relating to price increases and shortfalls in goods supplies were addressed," while the regulations were being drawn up.

"The first few days will show that such problems have not arisen in the markets."

However, in the far eastern Primorye region, Chinese and Vietnamese traders have already begun leaving the country, Interfax reported.

"The parts of the market previously occupied by Chinese and Vietnamese citizens have either been vacated or shut down," Federal Migration Service official Viktor Volkov told the news agency.

"Half of those who used to work on the stalls skirting the market have tickets to go home," Volkov told Interfax.

He also said it was still too early to give exact figures for the numbers of foreign traders leaving the country, adding that it would be clearer by the end of the month.

"Some foreigners are trying to claim their activities as wholesale trading so as not to fall within the terms of the new law, but they will not pull it off," Volkov said.

According to Volkov's estimates, 3,500 foreigners worked in the markets in the Primorye region, most of them from Vietnam and China.