At least win someone over

Migrantophobia – a new wave

In the spring of the current year, against the backdrop of exciting news from the Ukrainian fronts, the topic of persecution of labour migrants in the Russian Federation started to attract more and more attention, especially regarding Tajikistanis. At first, only some nationalists wrote about it in their Telegram channels (of course, presenting information in an anti-Tajik spirit), but in May and June, the problem was also heard in the media, which covered among other things Tajik-Russian diplomatic discussions of the rights of migrants in the Russian Federation. Thus, at a meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs on June 6, when the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation arrived on an official visit to Tajikistan, his colleague, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan, Sirojiddin Mukhriddin, raised the issue of observing “the basic rights and freedoms of Tajik citizens staying in Russia in the course of scheduled and unscheduled measures by the Russian state bodies to streamline migration processes,” and also stressed that “through the country’s law enforcement agencies, an official appeal was sent to the Russian side with a request to check the legality and acceptability of such treatment of our citizens.”

Experts talked about the pressure on Tajikistan, expressed (which has happened more than once) in the form of anti-migrant police raids, mass detentions and deportations of Tajiks. A variety of versions were sounded, offering explanations for these persecutions: someone saw this as an attempt to drive Tajikistan into the EAEU, others connected relations with Tajik migrants with the war in Ukraine, mobilization and the desire of the Russian authorities to force labour migrants to fight. Both opinions are not groundless: it is obvious that Russia is interested in Tajikistan’s accession to the EAEU, which Lavrov openly spoke about when visiting Tajikistan. It is no less obvious that the citizens of Tajikistan are being recruited into the active Russian army, many have already died in battles in Ukraine, although official Dushanbe (as well as the authorities of other republics of Central Asia) warn about the illegality of participation in the war on the territory of other countries, which, according to the Criminal Code of the country, is recognized as mercenarism and is subject to criminal punishment. Information has appeared that migrants sentenced to deportation by a court in St. Petersburg are sent directly from the Centre for the Temporary Detention of Foreign Nationals  (CTDFN, actually an immigration prison) to military units), where they – against their will – are being prepared to be sent to the front. Tajik human rights activists say that in the course of police raids, Tajik citizens are treated worse than other detainees, they are beaten.

According to Karimdzhon Yorov: “They hit precisely the Tajik migrants.” And the activists of the National Alliance of Tajikistan even compared the persecution of compatriots with the “traditions of the treatment of Jews and prisoners of war by Hitler’s Nazis”, noting that the police “raids are accompanied by deliberate humiliation human and national dignity, deliberately defiantly brutal infliction of injuries and mutilations on Tajik students in their dormitories and workers at their workplaces.”

But there is another opinion: the well-known defender of the rights of migrants in the Russian Federation Valentina Chupik does not believe that it is specifically Tajik migrants who are being persecuted, stating that citizens of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan constantly turn to her suffering from police violence. According to Chupik, the only difference is that the authorities of Tajikistan raise the topic in negotiations with the authorities of the Russian Federation (not only the embassy staff, but also at the level of communications of the General Prosecutors and Ministers of Internal Affairs), while the authorities of Uzbekistan do not react at all, and the government of Kyrgyzstan even blames migrants in creating problems.

It should be noted that the “discontent of citizens”, expressed in various video appeals to the president, the mayor and other figures, was often expressed in relation to immigrants from Tajikistan, but the conclusions of these attacks, which are quite racist in essence, turned out to be of a general anti-immigration character. Increasingly, there is a “requirement” for the introduction of visas for citizens of the Central Asian republics, and deputies of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, including the head of the faction “A Just Russia – For Truth” Mironov.

It is difficult to disagree with the explanation offered by Valentina Chupik, who believes that the authorities need the fight against migrants during the pre-election period in order to show that “they are defeating someone.” The need to amuse “national pride” at the expense of people from poor republics who are discriminated against and exploited in the Russian Federation is probably experienced not only by regional authorities and security officials. The abundance of racist attacks on social networks, where stories about some kind of “ethnic crimes” are circulated, videos of various incomprehensible fights are replicated, and age-old fears of “molestation of our girls” are reproduced, speaks of a wide demand for migrantophobia. Once again in a country where people are dying in a brutal war unleashed by their state, carrying only defeats and humiliations, and the population, despised by the whole world, is rapidly impoverished, they are looking for “guilty people”. They find, as always, the most unprotected, in order to take it out on them.

Stefania KULAEVA

First published on the Radio Liberty blog

Photo by Ute Weinmann