MIGRANTS TO THE REGION Project
In today's world, labour migration has become an important factor of global development, providing flexibility for the international labour market, enabling backward nations to join the global production culture and encouraging interaction and mutual enrichment of cultures. In Russia the migration policy serves as a major source of labour force replenishment for the country. The vast majority of migrant workers are young people with mental, linguistic, cultural, and religious traits specific to their nation.
Since 2010 the Russian Peace Foundation has been implementing a project titled "Migrants to the Region" dedicated to studying international labour migration and the new features this process acquires in the context of globalisation, as well as to analysing the socio-economic factors affecting labour migration dynamics.
The Migrants to the Region project is designed for 3 years, and its key objective is to develop and implement a set of adjustment actions aiming to change migrants' social attitudes and raise awareness of their need for socio-cultural adaptation in the region of their employment.
The key objectives of the Migrants to the Region project are:
• To include migrant workers in the social and cultural environment of the region they live and work in;
• To adapt this group of people to the social and cultural environment of the region;
• To prevent ethnic and nationalist conflicts; and
• To develop and implement educational-methodical and information projects for migrants.
A number of activities have been implemented within the project and divided into the following stages:
1) Cultural Adaptation: includes Russian language training and tourist excursions. Free Russian language courses are offered to migrant workers at the places of their residence, specially designed to enable language skill development based on a minimum command of Russian. The tourist excursions include free economy class bus trips for migrant workers who want to gain knowledge of the history, culture and architecture of the region they live in.
2) Conflict Centre: foremen and migrant elders have been involved in the establishment of a conflict centre comprising selected representatives of migrant groups, a psychologist (conflictologist) and a lawyer with experience in the field of labour law and administrative law.
3) Social and Practical Literacy Course: a three-hour consultation giving explanation of the basics of legal culture, generally accepted norms and everyday communication realities, labour relations, etc., including a list of primary addresses and phone numbers (like: "where from and how to call to your home country," "how to transfer or receive money," "how much does it cost", etc.).
4) Hotline: A telephone facility performing the functions of a directory service offering basic advice and redirecting to various services and organisations, including public ones.
The project is expected to result in a change in migrant workers' attitude to the industrial and social activities in the region of their residence and a reduction in the incidence of conflict situations occurring on professional, social, national and cultural grounds.
In legal terms, the Russian Peace Foundation relied on a number of legislative acts of the Russian Federation, from which it developed a unique method of advising migrants. A hotline offering urgent legal advice was established.
The Migrants to the Region project is unique in Russia. System attempts to work with migrant workers have been undertaken only in Moscow in recent years, leaving Russian provinces untouched. In this context, the methods of working with migrants that have been developed and tested in Yaroslavl could serve as a basis for regional involvement.
During conversations with representatives of authorities, national communities, teams of guest workers and residents of Yaroslavl City, as well as in the course of individual and group counselling and expert interviews, the existence of contradictions between migrants and residents and the presence of cautious attitudes of these two groups of population to each other have been revealed. Prohibitive measures (such as limiting numbers of migrants, banning their immigration, "restricted access commune" placement of immigrants) may be taken, but they cannot prevent the influx of illegal migrants.
When approached by cultural projects for establishing first contacts, migrant workers express caution. However the suspicion rapidly disappears, and at later stages migrants become involved as much as to initiate projects for their own cultural adaptation. Russian language courses, lectures read by a psychologist for groups of listeners and educational excursions are especially popular. It should be noted that it is expedient to work with migrants indirectly - through foundations, grants and non-governmental organisations - rather than through authorities.
Authorities' initiatives aimed at establishing interaction with migrant workers cause wariness in the latter. National diasporas have proved to be a very effective mediator between the grantor, the grantee and the migrant workers themselves. Moreover, national diasporas (whose representatives are, as a rule, more adapted to life in Russia) act as a certain kind of counsellors for their own fellow countrymen.
National diasporas have realised their practical relevance not only within their communities but also outwardly, with regional authorities and among thousands of migrants from their native countries. It is no accident that representatives of non-governmental organisations based in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have expressed interest in the RPF project.
The RPF' experience has also proved to be of interest to public institutions working with migrants in Moscow. Working relationships have been established and information exchange arranged with colleagues working on similar issues both in Moscow and in Central Asia.
Representatives of international organisations dealing with labour migration and accredited at the UN (Geneva HQ) have shown interest in our experience.
Some existing problems have to be noted apart from the positive factors, in particular difficulties with the selection of specialists (teachers, psychologists, counsellors, lawyers) capable of working with unfamiliar audience, dispersion of migrants' workplaces (guest workers have irregular working hours), etc.
As a result, specialists had to develop, test and implement courses after their own methods (involving teachers, practicing university psychologists and professional lawyers).
In territorial terms, a combined system of operation formed: individual counselling was carried out at the central office of the RPF Yaroslavl Regional Branch while lectures and Russian language courses were delivered in areas of prevalent residence of migrant workers.
In order to inform residents of Yaroslavl of the government's initiative and the Russian Peace Foundation practical actions, the project implementation was covered in the regional and municipal mass media. Working with the media, the Russian Peace Foundation attracted the attention of local residents and employers to the urgent problem of migrant adaptation.
As it was found in the course of the project implementation, timely informing was vital in working with migrants. This need brought forth the idea to develop, print and distribute reference books for migrant workers. The concept allows not only to convey to the workers the information they need, but can also be useful in the future, when migrants go home and take away with them directories translated into Turkic languages. In this way, it will be possible to spread the information to those countries from which migrant workers come, as a result of which they will arrive in Yaroslavl already partly prepared for living and working in the region.
Having examined the situation and the migrants' need for information, the RPF developed and published three types of reference books. In training and focus groups, expert studies of the need for this or that practical information were conducted.
The decision to publish the three handbooks was motivated by the desire to describe more systematically each of the activities.
Brief description of the Migrant in the Yaroslavl region reference books:
1. Legal Reference Book (a set of essential laws for migrants). The book addresses the legal aspects of foreign citizens' presence in Russia, including information on the procedures for entering the Russian Federation and leaving the country, as well as those for registration and employment of migrants.
2. Information and Telephone Directory. The handbook provides the addresses and telephone numbers of the Federal Migration Service and employment centres, offers information on healthcare, banking and educational institutions and national NGOs and contains other useful materials. The book will help migrant workers settle in Yaroslavl and successfully deal with employment, healthcare and social security issues.
3. Cultural Guide and Russian Language Phrasebook. This includes a minimum vocabulary and explains conversational and cultural aspects of basic communications in Russia: how to speak at airports and in trains, at employment interviews and while visiting public places, with the employer, etc. The book contains a small glossary that includes the most frequently used Russian words and professional terms.
Each book has some 50 to 60 pages and is published within an economy price range. The authors of the project expect to have feedback from users, to be used for making corresponding adjustments to the books as part of a second phase of the project.
Afterwards, the RPF intends to extend the list of printed materials issued for migrants by publishing manuals containing advice on completing various forms, recommendations on how to behave in problem situations and special materials on professional development. There are plans to translate the migrant reference books into neighbouring countries' languages.
The spontaneity factor, typical for today's migration flows, is frequently misused for violation of migrants' and employers' rights and for breaching the foundations of law.
It is impossible to solve problems relating to various aspects of migrants' residence and employment in the Russian Federation without developing a systematic approach and applying innovative technologies in the services sought by migrant workers and their potential employers.
By way of specific measures aimed at solving the problems migrants to the Russian Federation and their employers face, the following may be proposed:
1. Creating integrated migration centres in order to structure and systematise the influx of migrants on the basis of methodical selection and employment, probably following the suit of campuses in which workers may have assistance during the period of adaptation to the new environment.
2. Developing a programme for establishing in migrant workers' native countries integrated migration centres for systematic recruitment of workforce (especially skilled workers) for employment abroad.
The Russian Peace Foundation's 'Migrants to the Region' project is relevant in that it will serve as a basis for the development and practical assessment of methods of adaptation of migrants to a Russian environment as presented by an average Russian city.
The project is valuable in that the proposed methodology can be used, while requiring practically no amendment, to solve migration problems in any city, including European municipalities.
This methodology may also be used as a base construct, either as a whole or in separate modules, but also may serve as a basis for further theoretical and practical work aimed at its implementation and modernisation.