By Nigar Orujova, Azernews Staff Writer
The number of legal migrants has increased by 5 percent in Azerbaijan since the beginning of 2012, the State Social Protection Fund reported in late July.
The migration quota for 2012 was set at 11,974 people, compared to 9,875 in 2011.
"The increase in the quota is linked to the implementation of major projects in Azerbaijan, including the construction of a special arena, Crystal Hall, for the 2012 Eurovision song contest and other major facilities in the country," said deputy director of State Labor Inspectorate Service Rauf Tagiyev.
The official number of migrants registered on the individual records system is 12,898 people from 95 countries. The system, undersigned by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in 2001, has operated since 2006.
The migration law allows immigrants to work in Azerbaijan for five years by paying 1,000 manats ($1,272) in taxes each year.
We recall that the state tax rate was 45 manats ($57) in 2009. Increasing the tax rate is part of the governmental policy on migration control, which produces fruitful results for the country.
The increased tax will make an employer think twice about hiring a foreign or local professional and definitely raise the employment rate of locals.
At the same time, a rise in the tax rate causes another problem for the country -- an increase in the number of illegal migrants who cannot or are simply unwilling to pay this sum.
The statistics shows that labor migrants mostly came to Azerbaijan from Turkey and Georgia. Turkish migrants are mainly involved in the construction sector.
Azerbaijan with its developing construction sector has a high demand for workforce, unlike Europe with the lower scale of construction work.
Georgian migrants, who are mainly ethnic Azerbaijanis, are engaged in the service sectors of the Azerbaijani economy.
It is beyond a doubt that legal migration benefits the GDP of both the home and host country, whilst illegal migration harms the latter.
"The number of immigrants has surpassed the number of emigrants in Azerbaijan since 2008, said Azer Allahveranov, a migration expert.
Azerbaijan with its stable economy amid the world economic crisis and unemployment in Europe is attractive for job seekers. Foreign workforce considerably benefits the country's development, but only in case of legal immigration.
Azerbaijan, along with a stable economy, is also attractive for its hospitability and stability, and the economic situation. Azerbaijani Ombudsman Elmira Suleymanova asserts that during her nine years in office she has never heard of any complaints made on ethnic grounds. Therefore, the number of people coming to Azerbaijan for a permanent place of residence (PPR) surpasses the number of those leaving the country. For instance, 2,200 people arrived in Azerbaijan for PPR in 2011, while 500 left the country.
Although Azerbaijan has a demand for workforce in different sectors of industry due to rapid economic development and the introduction of new technology, the country still has a problem with illegal immigrants. Their number exceeds 1,000 every month.
"We do not suspect Azerbaijan of being a source of illegal migration. To the contrary, the modern Azerbaijan has become the center of illegal migration," European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule said earlier.
Indeed, now the country has to protect the local able-bodied people from the migrants' stream. The official unemployment rate in Azerbaijan for 2011 reduced to 5.4 percent, although it was 17 percent in the early 1990s, Labor and Social Security Minister Fizuli Alekperov said.
However, the informal unemployment rate is still high. The cheap illegal migrants' labor causes difficulties for the local jobless and affects the domestic economy.
The strict migration law results in a large illegal workforce, whose number exceeds the number of legal migrants in the country.
"The number of migrants has reached 450,000 people and it is a very high indicator for a country with 9 million population," Allahveranov says.
Allahveranov believes it is necessary to continue fighting the inflow of illegal migrants.
The immigration authority detains over 1,000 foreigners illegally staying in Azerbaijan monthly. As a rule, some of them pay fines and stay in the country on legal basis, while others are deported.
The fine is approximately 30,000 to 35,000 manats ($38,236 to $44,608).
According to the State Migration Service, 1,501 foreign nationals were deported from Azerbaijan in July.
1,859 foreigners and stateless persons last month violated the regulations on temporary and permanent stay in Azerbaijan. 298 of them were fined and their stay was legalized. 1,393 foreign citizens were ordered to leave the country within 48 hours over violating the Code of Administrative Offenses and a decision was passed to deport 108 others as part of administrative measures.
While the Azerbaijani government protects the rights of legal workers, the employers often deceive illegal migrants.
"The rights of all migrants irrespective of whether they are legal or illegal should be protected equally," Allahveranov said.
Illegal migrants are held in special centers once they are detained. The Ombudsman's representatives regularly visit such centers to view the conditions provided there.
Migrants are provided with legal and medical help and necessary information to avoid human trafficking and other menaces in connection with migration.
After a recent conference dedicated to illegal migration, the labor inspectorate service's deputy director Rauf Tagiyev said it was decided to establish a special working group to coordinate activities in this area.
According to Tagiyev, the working group will comprise representatives of state bodies, which will first develop amendments to Labor, Tax and Civil Codes, Code of Administrative Violations and other legal acts to toughen measures on the fight against illegal employment. The taskforce will also develop proposals on labor statistics unification and compilation of a database on illegal employment.