From Tajikistan to Russia: Vulnerability and abuse of migrant workers and their families

13.12.2014
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The situation of Tajik migrants in Russia is deteriorating, said FIDH and ADC Memorial in the new released report. Increasingly restrictive migration laws are pushing migrants into irregular situations and increasing their vulnerability, while exploitation goes unchecked.

The dire economic situation in Tajikistan, where around 40% of the population of working age is unemployed, continues to push hundreds of thousands of men and women to leave for Russia every year. According to official statistics, in 2014 there were over a million Tajik citizens in Russia. The remittances sent back represent 47% of Tajikistan’s GDP, the highest percentage of any country worldwide. For most families, they are the main source of income. This trend looks set to continue.

Despite recent measures announced by the Tajik authorities, migrants remain highly vulnerable to abuse. As a result of increased restrictions on entry and stay in Russia, deportations have multiplied and tens of thousands of migrants have been subjected to re-entry bans. Migrant workers interviewed by FIDH and ADC-Memorial reported extortion by Russian police and border guards, arbitrary arrests and police violence. Fuelled by xenophobic political discourse and media reports, vigilante attacks on migrants are on the rise. Those responsible for attacks benefit from almost complete impunity. The report also documents non-payment of wages, poor living conditions are poor and lack of access to medical treatment. The multiplication of legal restrictions, raids on migrants like “Operation Migrant 2014” launched this November, and rising xenophobia are resulting in serious violations of migrants’ human rights. We are deeply concerned about recent acts of violence against migrants, on the part of the police and civilians, which have gone unpunished, said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. In December, it became clear that Operation Migrant 2014 would be ongoing. Mass arrests and detention of migrants in Moscow and St. Petersburg continue.

The report addresses the human rights impact of migration on women in particular. Hundreds of thousands of women are left behind in Tajikistan to bring up children, working in the fields and on markets, and depending on their in-laws for support. Those whose husbands stop sending money or disappear completely can find themselves destitute. Over the past several years, there has also been a sharp increase in numbers of Tajik women migrating to seek work. It is estimated that today around 15% of migrants are women. Women migrants, especially those who leave the country alone, are seen as challenging traditional roles and often suffer stigmatisation from their families and communities in Tajikistan, while in Russia they are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and violence.

In 2012, Tajikistan was examined by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. The Committee raised particular concerns about corruption among border guards and some consular staff and the lack of effective complaint mechanisms for victims of abuse. “Consular protection for Tajik migrants in difficulty in Russia remains inadequate and the Tajik Migration Service has not established an effective complaints procedure. Cases of exploitation by employers and intermediaries, including forced labour, are not properly investigated by the authorities of either country,” said Stefania Koulaeva, Head of ADC-Memorial.

Since 2011, FIDH and ADC Memorial have undertaken a series of joint investigations to document the situation of Tajik migrant workers in Russia and the violence, xenophobia and serious violations of economic and social rights they face there.

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