Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday repeat migration offenders should be banned from entering Russia for up to 10 years as he proposed tough new immigration rules ahead of a March election.
The proposals, which include criminal charges for employing what Putin labeled effective “slave” labour, came just days after he wrote that migrants wishing to work in Russia should pass language, history and law tests.
“We are proposing to ban entry into Russia for a period of five to 10 years—and maybe for a more extensive term—for those who have been caught committing repeated gross violations of migration legislation or have been deported after a court order,” Putin said.
Speaking at the offices of the Federal Migration Service, he said those who employ illegal migrants should face criminal charges as opposed to fines.
“Sanctions against those who provoke illegal immigration must be strengthened,” he said in televised remarks.
Of around 9.2 million foreigners residing in Russia, around four million were illegally employed even though they were registered with the authorities, Putin said, adding that more highly-qualified, skilled workers needed to be attracted.
Some analysts said Putin’s pre-election bid openly flirted with xenophobia and sought to hijack the nationalist slogans of activists who have joined the protest movement against the strongman’s 12-year rule.
Many in Russia—where Orthodox Christianity is the dominant religion—chafe at the increased numbers of Muslim migrants and some of their traditions like slaughtering sheep in public.
“During (Islamic) holidays people in large cities, local residents already prefer to stay indoors. How about that? Where are we heading?” Putin said.
“This destabilises our own society,” he said in comments released by the government.