Press Release Anti-Discrimination Center Memorial International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Tajikistan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law
Migrant workers must not be held hostage to the Russian-Tajik political crisis
Paris, St Petersburg, Dushanbe, 23 November 2011 – As the diplomatic crisis between Russia and Tajikistan remains unresolved, Tajik migrant workers in Russia are paying the price.
The crisis started after a Tajik court sentenced a Russian pilot, Vladimir Sadovnichy to 8.5 years for smuggling and illegal border crossing on 8 November 2011. The court’s judgment was strongly criticized by Russian officials as politically motivated. Russian government structures responded by targeting migrant workers from Tajikistan, suggesting that undocumented Tajik citizens should be forcibly deported from Russia and that controls on entry should be reinforced (including through the reinstatement of a visa regime).
Since 18 November, the Tajik authorities have begun to issue public statements defending their citizens working in Russia. On 22 November, the Tajik authorities announced the release of Mr Sadovnichy and his fellow detainee in an attempt to calm diplomatic tensions. Yet, these recent events are simply a further illustration of the extreme vulnerability of this population and of the urgent need for measures to increase their protection (see FIDH-ADC Memorial report, “Tajikistan: Exporting the Workforce – At What Price?”).
While, xenophobic tensions have been fueled by the mass media coverage of the crisis, Russian governmental officials have issued a series of statements which sounded like veiled threats or were openly directed against citizens of Tajikistan.. The newspaper Rossiskaya gazeta published a statement by Chief Sanitary Officer of the Russian Federation, G. Onishchenko, about the possibility of “the introduction of a temporary ban on the use of labor from Tajikistan, since recently the incidence of diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis has increased among migrants.” The Director of the Federal Migration Service, K. Romodanovksy, has made statements to the press about the number of crimes committed by migrants from Tajikistan.
The media has also been reporting on support given by certain “non-governmental organizations” (the nationalist organization Svetlaya Rus’ is mentioned) to the Federal Migration Service to conduct operations to uncover “illegal” migrants. Such cooperation has not been officially denied. In Moscow, raids have targeted undocumented Tajik migrants. There have been numerous announcements of arrests and deportations but the actual figures are unknown.
This has generated a climate of fear for Tajik and other foreign citizens living in Russia, many of whom will recall the mass deportations of Georgian citizens in 2006-2007 during the height of the Georgia-Russia conflict. The creation by the Embassy of Tajikistan of a “crisis headquarters” to help Tajik citizens who have been subjected to persecution, whilst a welcome response, is a sign of the gravity of the situation.
The FIDH-ADC Memorial report, “Tajikistan: Exporting the Workforce – At What Price?”, launched earlier this month, highlights the vulnerability of Tajik migrant workers in Russia to abuse and exploitation. These latest developments starkly illustrate the urgent need to increase protection of the rights of workers migrating between Russia and Tajikistan, as outlined in the recommendations addressed to the governments of both countries in the report.
In reaction to the latest worrying developments, our organisations call upon the Government of the Russian Federation, in accordance with international human rights law, to:
– Cease all xenophobic and discriminatory statements;
– Stop instrumentalising the vulnerable position of foreign citizens in Russia for political ends and refrain from collective deportations and other discriminatory measures targeting Tajik citizens in Russia.
In Russia – Anti-Discrimination Center Memorial, 317-89-30, email@example.com
Olga Abramenko, Director, +7-912-918-01-63, and Stephania Koulaeva, Program Director, +7-921-918-01-63.
 This joint report was based on research conducted by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Anti-Discrimination Center Memorial, including during an investigation mission to Tajikistan in May 2011, organised with support from the NGO Tajikistan Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law. On 9 November, human rights defenders from Tajikistan attended a press conference organised by ADC Memorial in St. Petersburg to present the report.