Much to the Daily Mail’s delight Russia has a new policy on illegal immigrants. Here’s how it works.
My wife hires a few guys to make repairs to the flat. The police, by chance, or at the prompting of a concerned citizen, arrive and demand to see everyone’s paperwork. Of the three, non Russian, workers one has some problem with his documents, though he has apparently been stopped every day for the last year without this problem being apparent. Anyway the cops, take my wife off into a room and tell her she is going to court for hiring illegal workers. But luckily, they will be able to help her out if she pays a 24 000 ruble fine, 730 dollars.
She doesn’t have that much in loose change, so they suggest she goes round the neighbours to see if any of them can contribute, she won’t do so. After much haggling it comes down to 5000 and they leave, after warning her that if they should come back and see any work going on there will be a far larger “Fine” required to avoid legal hell.
The room has massive holes in the walls and ceiling, so the work continues. When a van arrives to deliver materials, my wife asks me to go carry them up the five flights of stairs just in case the cops are waiting. They are, and when I open the door they demand to see my papers and those of the worker who is with me. He is legal, he must be, as they examine his papers for 10 minutes and quiz him and nothing comes of it.
Am I legally here? We never establish that because I tell them I am English and have no papers on me, which appears to satisfy them at once as they scuttle off sharpish giving me nervous glances over their shoulders.
A more skeptical man that I would suggest that a western foreigner is a far more complex problem than an Uzbek, and particularly one who speaks Russian, looks them in the eye and is evidently not a fresh faced tourist. I, however, refuse to fall prey to any such cynical interpretations and remain convinced it is simply a mark of the profound trust and mutual admiration that exists between our two great nations.