Police free 49 Uzbek slave labourers near Moscow

Impoverished labourers from many ex-Soviet countries stream to Russia, seeking to support their families back home with modest wages earned in the booming oil-fuelled economy.

Police free 49 Uzbek slave labourers near Moscow

Forty-nine Uzbeks labourers were freed from bondage outside Moscow, police said on Tuesday.

Two ethnic Azeris, believed to be part of a criminal ring, were arrested in a sting operation in the village of Chulkovo southeast of Moscow, police said in a statement.

It did not say when the operation took place.

Vesti-24 state news channel showed video footage of police officers rescuing the labourers sorting vegetables in dimly-lit hangars. Police hurled the two Azeri overseers to the ground.

"The criminal group is being charged with exploiting slave labour, which is punishable by a maximum of 15 years in jail," said a spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry's organised crime and terrorism department.

Police said the Uzbeks were illegally smuggled into Russia, after which their passports were taken away. They had not been paid for several months, and were working to sort vegetables later sold in Moscow's shops and markets.

"Some of the women had suffered sexual harassment from the overseers," the police report said, adding that five Uzbeks were in need of serious medical treatment.

"We register several dozens such cases each year, and last year alone we uncovered some 30 similar cases of slavery across Russia," the police spokesman said.

Drop in the occean

"However, this is just a drop in the ocean as exploitation of humans is very prevalent -- these migrants realise only too well themselves that they are in Russia illegally," he said.

Impoverished labourers from many ex-Soviet countries stream to Russia, seeking to support their families back home with modest wages earned in the booming oil-fuelled economy.

Most of them do not know Russian laws and work illegally, controlled by criminals and for much less pay than Russians.

The U.S. State Department said in its 2008 Trafficking in Persons report published last week that Russia was "a source, transit and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for various forms of exploitation".

Even Russia's migration authorities do not possess exact figures for the number of illegal migrants working in Russia, putting it at least five million people.

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 11 Haziran 2008, 13:03
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