Posted on March 30, 2005

Racist Attacks Forcing Foreign Students to Leave Russia

Moscow News, Mar. 30

In the wake of a new wave of attacks on foreigners in St. Petersburg 15 students from Arab countries have decided to drop out of St. Petersburg institutes of higher education and return home, the Novye Izvestia newspaper reported Wednesday.

Foreign students are leaving Russia fearing for their safety. Russia is no longer a safe place to live, the foreign students complain.

There are about 100,000 foreign nationals studying in Russia’s colleges and universities. Students from the CIS countries — the former Soviet republics — account for approximately one-third of them.

Annually, the country earns $60-70 million on educating foreign students, the Ministry for Education and Science reports.

With attacks on foreign nationals on the rise across the country many of them are considering leaving Russian out of fear for their personal safety. Most attacks on foreigners target nationals of Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Moldova, according to police reports.

A 40-year-old Chinese national — a student at the St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov conservatoire — was severely beaten by unidentified attackers recently. He was hospitalized with a head injury and brain concussion.

In a separate incident, an Angolan national — a former student of the Agricultural University — was attacked and wounded in the Northern capital.

Leaders of student diasporas called an emergency round table meeting where they accused the city authorities of taking no measures to protect students from Arab, Asian and African counties from attacks by skinhead thugs. The forum voiced concern over the increasing number of attacks on foreigners.

Earlier this month foreign students wrote a letter to St. Petersburg governor Valentina Matvienko, urging her to take measures to protect foreign students. In the letter they informed Matvienko of yet another attack on three medical students. None of the attackers were ever detained even though police found a passport belonging to one of them at the scene of the attack.

But so far no action has been taken, Gannam Mohamad, representative of the Union of Arab Students told the paper. “We no longer have any trust in the law enforcement agencies, while protest rallies are, apparently, useless.”

Gannam Mohammad reported that 15 Arab students had already notified their universities of their decision to discontinue studies and planned to go home in the near future. Members of the forum unanimously admitted that the St. Petersburg authorities have proved incapable of preventing crimes against foreign students, Vremya Novostei writes.

Meanwhile, foreign students at the Kuban State University in Krasnodar have been forced to call for their rights to be protected. This week they staged a picket near the university building urging authorities to protect them from skinhead attacks.

The protest was held in the wake of a March 26 attack on two foreign students of the Kuban University and Medical Academy — nationals of Syria and Lebanon. Both suffered numerous injuries.