Based on research conducted by FIDH and Anti-Discrimination Center «Memorial» (ADC Memorial) in Tajikistan in May 2011, the report Tajikistan: Exporting the workforce – at what price?, examines the steps taken by the Tajik authorities towards protecting the human rights of its citizens who migrate – mainly to Russia – to find work.
In the face of widespread exploitation of Tajik migrant workers in Russia, the Tajik and Russian governments must do much more to protect their basic human rights, according to a report released by FIDH and Anti-Discrimination Center «Memorial» today.
Presentation of human rights report: “Tajikistan: export of labour – at what price?” in the press-club “Zelenaya lampa” (Green lamp) in St Petersburg оn November 9, 2011
The social and economic situation in Tajikistan is extremely difficult. The country has limited natural resources and the combination of the collapse of the Soviet system, liberal economic policies and the civil war (1992-1997) has destroyed the social infrastructure, especially education and health services.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Tajik citizens leave to seek work abroad. Migrants’ remittances are estimated at 40-50% of the country’s GDP. 90% of migrants go to Russia, where they find jobs in construction, trade, housing and cleaning services, agriculture and maintenance.
“Once, when I was still in school, I was sitting with friends in the courtyard and an older kid came up to us…He explained that he also used to sit with his friends but now they had all left to find work in Russia. And he was right. None of my former classmates are in Tajikistan; they’ve all gone to Russia for work. Many of them would have accepted work in Tajikistan for a quarter of their monthly salary in Russia, but you can’t even earn that here.”
F., from Khalton Province in Tajikistan, now works in St. Petersburg, Russia
In Russia, Tajik migrant workers face widespread exploitation on the part of recruitment agencies, other intermediaries and employers. Employers regularly confiscate passports and refuse to pay salaries in part or in full. The role of intermediary agencies and the lack of written contracts make it particularly difficult to hold employers to account. Tajik migrant workers in Russia are regularly victims of xenophobic attacks and extortion. Access to housing is extremely limited.
The FIDH/ ADC Memorial report analyses the impact of high emigration on Tajikistan. The Tajik government is currently facing critical questions concerning the extent to which it should facilitate and encourage emigration and the measures that need to be taken to avoid the negative consequences of emigration.
The report identifies significant obstacles to the effective implementation of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, ratified by Tajikistan in 2002, including inadequate legal and consular protection.
Reforms to the legal and institutional framework on migration are currently in the process of adoption. The report assesses the role of the new Council for Migration, created in 2011, and analyses two draft laws under examination, on external migration and on the role of private employment agencies.
FIDH and ADC Memorial address the following key recommendations to the government of Tajikistan:
- Provide support to Tajik migrant workers in Russia regardless of their migration status, including through
- increased access to consular assistance;
- Strengthen measures to fight corruption and extortion;
- Provide migrants with information on their rights and recourse mechanisms in Russia before departure, through training centres, seminars, and disseminating information in railway stations, depots, and airports;
- Ensure effective investigation, prosecution and punishment of employers, intermediaries and human traffickers responsible for violations of the rights of migrants;
- Establish hotline assistance in the major areas of employment of Tajik migrant workers in Russia and create shelter and crisis centres for migrant workers seeking refuge from violence and forced labour;
- Ensure that the process of drafting legislation is open and transparent and includes consultation with civil society and that draft laws can be readily accessed on institutional web sites.
In addition, FIDH and ADC Memorial make the following recommendations to both the governments of Tajikistan and Russia:
- Increase cooperation in the fight against forced labour and human trafficking;
- Conclude an agreement enabling migrant workers to have access to effective social protection and decent pensions;
- Investigate and prosecute all agencies or individuals falsely using official State symbols to promote their services;
- Reduce the cost of administrative procedures for migrants in Russia, in particular in relation to medical care and issuance of patents.
This report is published within the framework of FIDH’s project on migration in the post-Soviet region. The project studies human rights violations across migratory routes, from countries of origin to countries of destination. By involving national partners in all stages of investigations, the project seeks to strengthen intra-regional collaboration between organisations working on migrants’ rights.
In Tajikistan, in May 2011, FIDH’s partner organisation, the Tajik Bureau for Human Rights supported the delegation. Since then, fruitful cooperation has been developed between ADC Memorial, FIDH and the Tajik Human Rights Centre. ADC Memorial is based in St Petersburg, Russia.
For more information on this FIDH project, see, for example, the following reports:
FIDH report, Kazakhstan/ Kyrgyzstan: Exploitation of migrant workers, protection denied to asylum seekers and refugees, November 2009, available at http://www.fidh.org/FIDH-and-KIBHR-call-on-Kazakhstan-to-increase
FIDH report, Regional Seminar: International Migration: Migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the South Caucasus, Almaty, Kazakhstan, 28-30 November 2009, available at http://www.fidh.org/IMG//pdf/kazakh536RUSversionweb.pdf
FIDH/Civic Assistance Committee, Migration in Russia, Vulnerable populations, the first victims of internal and external political crises, April 2007, available in Russian at http://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/Migranrussie472-4russe2007.pdf and in French at http://www.fidh.org/Migrations-en-Russie-Populations-fragilisees
 According to various estimates, the number of workers from Tajikistan working abroad ranges from 520,000 to more than 1 million individuals (out of a population of seven million)