MOSCOW (AP) — Russia has a problem with World Cup guests who just won’t leave.
More than six months after France beat Croatia in the final, more than 5,000 foreigners who arrived on a visa-free system for fans last year have yet to leave the country, a senior policeman told Russian media on Friday.
Andrei Kayushin, who heads the migration department of the Interior Ministry, said just over 12,000 were left when their “Fan ID” permit cards expired at the end of 2018, but security services swiftly reduced that number to 5,500. That’s out of a total of 650,000 who originally received the permits.
“In the main, they were all law-abiding and left the country in their own time,” Kayushin said in comments reported by the Tass state news agency. Of the remaining 5,000 or so, “we are undertaking operations to deport them and I hope that they will all be deported by March 30.”
Kayushin didn’t specify what the remaining World Cup visitors were believed to be doing.
While some fans came for the football and fell in love with the host nation, there were also cases of people using the Fan ID system to enter Russia in the hope of then crossing the border illegally into European Union countries. A few dozen others reportedly wanted to file for asylum in Russia.
Two days before the final, around 60 Nigerian men camped outside their country’s embassy in Moscow asking for help returning home. A Russian anti-trafficking group said the men were promised work by an agency in Nigeria and bought fan documents only to arrive and find the promises were false.
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