Russian Prosecutor General’s office: Crime level among foreign migrants low. Human rights activists: Regional govenors’ xenophobia level high

In April 2013 Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has published crime statistics via the new specialized website http://crimestat.ru, also noting violations in the official crime reports by the Russian Interior Ministry. Information published on Prosecutor General’s Office website deals with various aspects of crime, including the number of crimes committed by foreign nationals. According to the Procurator’s Office, in 2012 foreign nationals committed 3.7% (men) and 2.2% (women) of all crimes in the Russian Federation respectively.  Figures for Saint Petersburg are 9% and 3.7%, for Leningard region – 4.8% and 1% respectively. These figures vary from the official statistics on crimes committed by migrants, which were published by the Russian Interior Ministry.

At the same time statistics of crimes committed by migrants are often used by the government officials when deciding on political measures and defining administrative “priorities”. References to official statistics of the Investigative committee of the Chief directorate of the Interior Ministry of the Russian Federation were made by various Saint Petersburg city and Leningrad region officials. In March 2013 governor of Saint Petersburg Georgy Poltavchenko stated that fighting crime among migrants is one of the priorities for the city authorities based on the “statistics” of the Investigative committee, according to which in January 2013 “each sixth murder and each third rape were committed by migrants in Saint Petersburg” (see: http://tvrain.ru/articles/gubernator_peterburga_hochet_izbavit_gorod_ot_nelegalnyh_migrantov_-339045/). Following this statement by the governor massive persecution and detentions of labor migrants have started – migrants were detained in Primorsky, Krasnoselsky and Vyborgsky districts of Saint Petersburg. Based on the testimonies ADC “Memorial” received from citizens of Uzbekistan and Tadzhikistan, these detentions were accompanied by violation of rights of foreign citizens, seizures of their passports, extortion of money carried by the police. This demonstrative reaction of the law enforcement authorities to the governor’s statements about “crime statistics concerning migrants” has lead to another wave of raids against people, who are often living and working in Russia on completely legal basis, and, of course, resulted in “profiteering” for those who “check” their documents.

Leningrad region governor Alexander Drozdenko went even further, comparing migrants to “cockroaches, who are crawling throughout the Leningrad region” and “make statistics worse”. The governor stated that in spite of a general decline in crime, the number of crimes related to ethnicity or committed by various ethnic groups has increased. “Migrant crime has gone up in our region”, he said (see: http://nazaccent.ru/content/7278-gubernator-lenoblasti-sravnil-migrantov-s-tarakanami.html). Drozdenko’s statement, based on a very unprofessional and opinionated approach to “crime statistics”, is inadmissible and is insulting to people based on their belonging to a particular social group (migrants).

Carelessness and vagueness of terms and categories used by the officials and echoed by the mass media enables to easily manipulate “official statistics”, which cannot be verified, in order to pursue certain interests, including kindling hatred towards migrants. Thus, in some reports “migrant crimes” are cited without making any distinction between the crimes committed by people coming from different regions of the Russian Federation and crimes of foreign nationals, thus presenting a terrible “statistics” of  “legal offences” committed by migrants (see: http://www.vz.ru/society/2011/7/20/508560.html), while administrative offences, such as living without registration at a certain address, are lumped together with other, more serious crimes. Often fighting crime is replaced with “fighting illegal migrants”

Studying statistics presented by the procurator’s office also gives an interesting results in a different respect since statistics of crimes committed in Russia against foreign nationals are provided. Out of 926 crimes against foreign nationals and people without citizenship in Russia reported in 2012 not a single (sic!) case was properly investigated so that the guilty party was found. Given the fact that many of the migrants are afraid to report crimes – including serious crimes – against themselves to the police, because they are afraid that police and the local departments of the Federal Migration Service will turn against them in order to “improve statistics” of fighting against “illegal migrants”, the fact that proper investigation is not carried even in case of crimes against foreigners, which were properly reported to the police, is a real indicator of xenophobia and “effective” work of the law enforcement.

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