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The Danger of Porous Borders

One of the benefits of being Russian is that there is never a lack of constructive advice on sensitive social matters like immigration and ethnic and religious tolerance -- not only from Russia's own liberals, but from friendly foreign countries and international nongovernmental organizations that are glad to instruct Russia on its duty to move toward the democratic standards of an open society. Russia need only adopt advanced Western models, they insist, and all will be well.

Then again, maybe not. Recently, the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia made the following statement in a report on anti-Jewish violence in EU countries: "France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the U.K. witnessed rather serious anti-Semitic incidents such as numerous physical attacks and insults directed against Jews and the vandalism of Jewish institutions -- synagogues, shops, cemeteries." Evidently, even some of Europe's longest-established democracies are not immune to such ugly behavior.

It turns out that few of the responsible parties are indigenous French, Belgians, Dutch and Britons. The vast majority of the perpetrators are first- or second-generation immigrants from Muslim countries, many of them illegally taking advantage of lax border controls. Rejecting assimilation of the languages, traditions and values of the countries that have welcomed them -- and despite the fact that they are often supported at public expense -- some of them find the allure of crime, even jihad, irresistible.

Although Jews often are singled out, they are not the only victims. France has become home to Muslim ghettos where polygamy is openly practiced and sharia law enforced in defiance of secular law. Muslim girls who reject arranged marriages or the wearing of headscarves are denounced as whores and risk gang rape. Normal citizens and even police fear entering crime-ridden outer suburbs of Paris and Marseille, where native French are mocked as "Gaulois" -- aliens in their own land.

Among the suspects in the July 7 bombings in the city some call Londonistan are a Somali, the son of an affluent Pakistani fish-and-chip shop owner and a Jamaican-born convert to Islam. They all attended the Finsbury Park mosque, inspired by the radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri. Courtesy of hundreds of thousands of pounds paid to him by British taxpayers as an asylum-seeker, for years he exhorted his disciples to jihad -- and, unsurprisingly, some heeded the call.

The filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was an outspoken critic of the treatment of women in some Muslim households, was murdered on the street by a Dutch-born Moroccan, and his killer left a note threatening more attacks in the name of radical Islam. As Michael Leaden of the American Enterprise Institute has noted, van Gogh's murder "is a textbook case of what happens when a tolerant but confused society takes political correctness to its illogical extreme."

Along with terror, immigrants also have imported a growing problem of organized crime. In many European cities, the Albanian mafia is involved in trafficking sex slaves from Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus as well as in distributing heroin, cultivated in the poppy fields of Afghanistan and smuggled through former Soviet states.

If what is happening in European democracies is indeed a textbook case of tolerance taken to a dangerous extreme, this is one Western paradigm that Russia must not imitate. The current government's laxity in enforcing Russia's laws and its failure to implement a national strategy of border protection amount to dereliction of duty.

Facilitated by a visa-free regime with most of the CIS and by sloppy and corrupt administration, thousands of illegal immigrants -- and not only from the CIS but also from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and Vietnam -- enter Russia daily, unobstructed and unobserved. Russia is now home to an estimated 10 million illegal immigrants, about 2 million of whom live in the city of Moscow and the Moscow region, most of them illiterate and low-skilled. We can only guess how many enter with criminal or terrorist intent.

In Russia, as in Europe, certain illegal immigrants constitute ideal recruits for jihad terrorism, and terror and crime are often linked. For example, just this month, members of the Hizb-ut Tahrir terrorist organization were arrested on suspicion of being involved in the distribution of heroin in the Moscow area. Without legal status, undocumented immigrants in Russia are often forced by criminal organizations into drug trafficking and prostitution. These are gross violations of human rights that the Russian authorities and NGOs prefer to ignore. Moreover, even when working legally -- in horrible conditions and for pay that is low even by Russian standards -- they displace Russians in the job market, drive down wages and place a burden on the infrastructure.

There is an urgent need for laws and policies to restore Russia's control over its borders so it can put its house in order. There should be a strict visa regime with neighboring CIS states to screen out criminals and potential terrorists. Foreign labor should be admitted only as long as it benefits Russia's national economy and international competitiveness, with priority given to Russian-speaking nationals of the former Soviet Union with high educational and vocational levels who are willing to become permanent residents and, eventually, loyal Russian citizens. Russia needs skilled foreign labor.

Cultural integration and Russian language proficiency should be made requirements for receiving government resettlement aid. This does not mean that there should be discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity or religion: Xenophobia and chauvinism are unacceptable and have no place in Russia. A strict immigration problem is no excuse for the violent racist fringe, who have proudly adopted Nazi regalia and slogans. No more tolerable in Moscow than anywhere else, the ideology they represent was delivered a fatal blow 60 years ago by the immortal feats of Russian arms.

"This country has lost control of its borders. And no country can sustain that kind of position." Those words of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan could easily be used to describe Russia today. There is no possible justification for violence and hatred that could tear apart Russian society, whether it comes from the neo-Nazi fringe or from the advocates of ersatz tolerance, who would open our doors to the very extremism they claim to oppose.

Dmitry Rogozin is chairman of the Rodina party and a State Duma deputy. He contributed this piece to The Moscow Times.

(The Moscow Times 10.x.05)

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