Thousands arrested in Russia, says rights body

Moscow, Aug 9 (IANS) Moscow police have detained thousands of suspected irregular migrants since late last month for alleged violation of migration and employment regulations, Human Rights Watch said Friday.

Hundreds are in custody, including in a makeshift tent camp in inhuman conditions. Russia should immediately halt these arbitrary detentions and the degrading treatment of migrants.

At the end of July, police opened a massive campaign in Russia's capital against irregular migrants, sweeping through street markets and other places where many migrants gather, and detaining people based on their non-Slavic appearance.

According to media reports, over 4,000 people have been taken into custody including nationals of Vietnam, Syria, Afghanistan, Egypt, Morocco, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

"Everything about this massive sweep violates Russia's obligations under international law," said Tanya Lokshina, Russia programme director at Human Rights Watch.

"Prolonged detention without counsel, ethnic profiling, inhuman conditions - it should stop now."

The migrants were being held in police detention centres and holding centers for foreign nationals, with courts ordering their deportation based on perfunctory, rubber-stamp hearings, it said.

The government should guarantee the fundamental rights of anyone taken into custody and provide detention conditions that meet international standards, Human Rights Watch said.

Undocumented migration and crime in Russia's capital are high on the political agenda in the lead up to the September mayoral elections. Concerns about rising migration and "ethnic" crime have become a dominant feature of official pre-election rhetoric.

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