Migrant workers from Tajikistan, hundreds of thousands of whom reside in the RF, had placed high hopes on the agreement signed between the immigration services of both countries on February 8, 2013, which they had hoped would simplify the process of migrant registration and extend the length of time they would be permitted to work in the RF to three years. It is evident that the agreements governing migrant workers arose in the context of the ratification of Russian-Tajik agreements regarding the Russian military base in the Republic of Tajikistan.
However, despite what would seem to be mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries, the actions on the ground directly contradict the interests of Tajik migration policies and the agreements achieved in this sphere – on the very day that the agreement was signed, a special operations raid was conducted in St. Petersburg which rounded up almost a thousand migrant workers, many of them were Tajik. The raid by the FSB supported by special police forces was conducted in Apraksin Dvor, the location of a Muslim Mosque. While Friday religious services were being conducted, all of the worshipers were indiscriminately dragged from the Mosque, beaten and subjected to physical and psychological abuse. The raid was conducted under the guise of a criminal investigation looking for extremists, but resulted in the arrest of only a single individual – a Russian citizen. A question arises: why was it necessary to detain without justification, to subject to humiliating treatment, to check the documents of hundreds of migrants, many of whom turned out to be subject to deportation and some of whom have already in fact been deported from Russia to Tajikistan, all for the arrest of one suspect in a criminal investigation? Conditions are intentionally being created, under which first of all circumstantial evidence is being used to confirm a completely unproven link between foreign citizens and extremist activities, and secondly, to conduct subsequent raids on “Illegal migrants” and the repression of migrant workers.
One of the individuals detained in the raid applied to the Antidiscrimination Center Memorial, stating that when law enforcement personnel stormed the mosque where he was praying with his children, he and his eldest sons were beaten, while his youngest son, who is 10, was psychologically traumatized. In the complaint filed with the Prosecutor of the City of St. Petersburg and the Investigative Committee on behalf of occupants of the mosque, Rustam Kasimov also points out facts of use of abusive physical force and cruel and offensive treatment of the worshipers by police.
One day prior, an operation was conducted to identify “illegal migrants” in Gorelovo on the outskirts of St. Petersburg (a “preventative raid” as termed by the law enforcement personnel themselves). According to the official information released by the Regional Office of the MVD for the City of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, the police uncovered handmade construction housing 16 adults and 28 children of varying ages. The adults were transferred to the Russian Migration Service for deportation, while the children, who had no documentation at all, have been placed in institutions responsible for preparing children for relocation to Tajikistan. As ADC Memorial found out, these were the means used to wipe out the community of Tajik Gypsies, many of whom really do run up against problems when attempting to obtain personal documentation, especially for their children. But the use of force and the breaking up of families is undoubtedly not the best way to resolve this problem. This approach violates the principals of international law, specifically, the principals of preserving the family unit as codified in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and in the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, all of which expressly forbid the separation of children from their parents and the deportation of parents without their children or of children without their parents.
Special Operations targeting those coming from Central Asia have been conducted not only in St. Petersburg: On February 6, 130 migrant workers were detained south of Moscow, on February 7, 107 citizens of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan were detained in semi abandoned houses west of Moscow, and in the end of January, an anti-immigrant raid was conducted in the Novgorod Oblast, which involved over 900 members of law enforcement forces (such a large show force by law enforcement is clearly disproportionate to the stated objective of identifying administrative violations, unless of course the goal of the operation was to intimidate foreign citizens in addition to identifying the violators).
An impression is created that migrant workers exist outside any political or legal protection, becoming the hostages of the government of the target country, which uses their precarious situation to reach both domestic and foreign policies, while their protection by the government of their citizenship, is ineffectual despite being included in formal international agreements.
In conjunction with the identified facts of mass violation of the rights of foreign citizens, human rights defenders demand a thorough investigation of all of the incidents of arbitrary use of force, illegal detention, abusive treatment during detention, and the violation of the rights of children and their parents, both on the part of specific individual members of law enforcement, and – even more importantly – on the part of the administrators of all of the law enforcement entities responsible for the planning and carrying out of the special operations in St. Petersburg and other regions.
Human Rights Organizations call on the Administrations of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tajikistan to pay utmost attention to what has occurred, and to not limit themselves to the signing of “mutually beneficial” international agreements, but to continue the dialogue concerning the issues of the defense of human rights and freedoms of individuals – migrant workers residing in Russia.
ADC Memorial, St. Petersburg (Olga Abramenko)
Civic Association Center for Human Rights, Dushanbe (Nodira Abdulloeva)
Civil Assistance Committee, Moscow (Svetlana Gannushkina)
International Federation for Human Rights (Suer Bellasen)
Bureau for Human Rights and Due Process, Dushanbe (Nargis Zokirova)
Union of Migrant Workers, Moscow (Renat Karimov)
Association of Journalists GenderMediaKavkaz, Tbilisi (Галина Петриашвили)
Humanitarian Fund Nota Bene, Dushanbe (Nigina Bakhrieva)