On May 23, 2019, IWPR Tajikistan hosted an expert meeting “Migration from Tajikistan to Russia: Analysis of New Trends”. Experts, representatives of state, international and public organizations, independent analysts and journalists discussed the current state of labor migration from Tajikistan to Russia and offered their vision of the ways to solve the observed problems.
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The government of the Republic of Tajikistan takes measures to improve the regulation of migration and protection of the rights of migrant workers, but experts doubt the efficiency of the measures taken;
- The community leaders complain about the unwillingness of the relevant agencies to cooperate;
- The international organizations provide advice, but their recommendations are not taken into consideration;
- The international organizations implement projects aimed at the reintegration of migrant workers into the country’s economy;
- Comprehensive measures should be taken to address the problems.
The editorial board of CABAR.asia analytical platform thoroughly covers events related to acute social problems in Tajik society. The official visit of the President of Tajikistan ato Moscow and his meeting with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin were among such events. In the aftermath of this visit and meeting, an article “Emomali Rahmon’s Visit to Moscow: Close Ties and Misplaced Hopes” was published on CABAR.asia website.
This article paid special attention to discussion of how the official visit of the head of state could affect the improvement of conditions for migrant workers from Tajikistan working in Russia.
In the article, Tajik experts offered their understanding of the prospects for improving conditions for migrant workers following potential Tajikistan’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
The current situation with regard to the legislation governing migration is contradictory. Tajik independent political scientist Muslimbek Buriev noted that the legal status of Tajik migrants could improve with Tajikistan joining the EAEU.
In turn, another Tajik political observer Negmatullo Mirsaidov noted that the issue of granting amnesty for 180 thousand Tajik labor migrants deported from Russia and deprived of the right to enter the territory of the strategic partner of Tajikistan remains an important problem requiring urgent solution.
To clarify on the current situation, alumnus of CABAR School of Analytics Behruz Saidov produced an analytical article “How to Overcome the Existing Practice of Illegal Migration from Tajikistan?”, in which he stressed that “Measures to increase the efficiency of foreign labor migration should be taken at the national level, which will, after all, create a totally different socio-economic situation in the Republic of Tajikistan.”
However, in an interview to the analytical platform CABAR.asia another Tajik political scientist Parviz Mullojanov expressed the opposite point of view: according to Mullojanov, the labor migration should not be supported, since it will harm the Tajik economy in the long term. “Mass labor migration should not become a constant phenomenon; the longer it lasts, the more harmful and destructive consequences accumulate, which begins to seriously threaten political and social stability,” said Parviz Mullojanov.
The conflicting expert assessments presented the basis for the expert discussion “Migration from Tajikistan to Russia: Analysis of New Trends”. The discussion was held at the IWPR office in Tajikistan on May 23. Representatives of state, international and public organizations, independent analysts and journalists took part in the discussion. The discussion was broadcast live on Facebook.
Starting the expert discussion, moderator media expert Lola Olimova explained the task to the participants – to present their views on the migration flow, highlight the problems, explain whether they need to be solved and, if so, how.
The First Deputy Head of the Migration Service of the Ministry of Labor, Migration and Employment of Population of the Republic of Tajikistan Moyonsho Mahmadbekzoda briefed the participants of the discussion about the measures taken by the state. According to him, the Migration Service provides comprehensive assistance to migrant workers both in Russia and in Tajikistan.
He noted that in 2018, more than 109 thousand migrants took preparatory courses before leaving. Since 2013, representative offices of the Migration Service operate in all districts of the country; there, the labor migrants going to Russia may access all the necessary information.
The Representative Office of the Ministry of Labor, Migration and Employment of Population of the Republic of Tajikistan in the Russian Federation on Migration also provides protection to the rights of migrant workers in Russia: for the first three months of 2019, the employees of the Representative Office defended the rights of migrant workers in 26 court proceedings, and in 2018 they considered the queries of 35 thousand citizens of the Republic of Tajikistan working in Russia.
The official noted that there are 14 economic entities in Tajikistan that have a license to send labor migrants abroad. In 2018, they provided employment abroad for 1953 Tajik citizens. Mahmadbekzoda acknowledged that this is not enough, and expressed the hope that this number will increase in the future. Moyonsho Mahmadbekzoda also added that the Migration Service is eager to develop cooperation with Russia and other countries.
Thus, according to the speaker, an agreement was signed between Tajikistan and Russia on the organized recruitment of migrants, and another 5 draft agreements are under consideration by the parties. As for the other countries, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan signed an agreement in 2017 allowing Tajik citizens to stay in Kazakhstan without registration for 30 days. The Migration Service studies the possibility of signing agreements with the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, South Korea, as well as with neighboring Uzbekistan.
The Head of the Public Association “Perspektiva+” Oynihol Bobonazarova said that for an objective assessment of the situation, one needs to analyze the adopted national strategies of Russia and Tajikistan. According to her, “the national strategy of Russia through 2025 adopted in 2018 [Edict “On Amendments to the Strategy of State Nationalities Policy of the Russian Federation through 2025, approved by Presidential Order No 1666 of 19 December 2012” dated December 6, 2018 – ed.] is fundamentally different from previous strategies.”
“It protects solely the state interests of Russia, increases the pressure on the states from which immigration takes place,” Bobonazarova said.
She also noted that in accordance with the adopted policy, only highly qualified specialists are welcomed now in Russia. Migrants from Tajikistan “fall into the trap”: according to the new legislation, they can be registered only at the place of residence and not at the place of work, which requires payment of additional taxes – 3-4 times more than before.
At the same time, the need for a labor patent and the prohibition of employment of migrants in certain economic sectors are also burdensome for migrant workers. On the other hand, the simplified procedure of obtaining Russian citizenship for graduates of Russian universities leads the highly qualified Tajik specialists choosing to remain in Russia.
Bobonazarova criticized the work of the Migration Service: the previously functioning Public Council under this state body has not held a single meeting since 2013. Her experience of participation in the work of public commissions on the regulation of migration processes showed that specialists working in this field do not possess the necessary qualification, and the proposed bills do not involve the use of effective tools to protect the rights of migrant workers.
Noting that the official statistics on the gender ratio among migrant workers is much understated (15% of migrant women against 35-40% observed by Bobonazarova) she stressed the inadequate protection of the rights of migrant women. In addition, the speaker drew the attention of the participants to the need for mandatory prosecution of persons guilty of crimes against migrant workers from Tajikistan.
Moyonsho Mahmadbekzoda reacted to the Oynihol Bobonazarova’s speech stating that migrant workers from Tajikistan still enjoy more rights during their stay in Russia than labor migrants from other countries. Thus, the citizens of Tajikistan can stay within the territory of the Russian Federation without registration for 15 days, while for citizens of Uzbekistan can stay for only 6 days.
Tohir Valiev, Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation – Tajikistan Economic Advancement Program Coordinator presented statistics on the number of returned migrants who are not eligible to reenter the territory of the Russian Federation.
According to Valiev, more than 200 thousand “blacklisted” migrants should be successfully reintegrated into the Tajik economy. He called on the participants of the meeting to pay special attention to this issue and consider it comprehensively.
Mavjuda Azizova, legal consultant to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), outlined this organization’s activities aimed at better regulation of labor migration processes. IOM conducts pilot project work in Tajikistan, develops programs of seminars and trainings and makes recommendations to state bodies. IOM is currently implementing projects related to combating human trafficking and improving the health of migrants. Since 2010, IOM has been providing advisory support in the development of draft laws on regulation of migration from Tajikistan.
However, according to Azizova, after obtaining approval of all relevant authorities and making all the changes, the draft laws developed with the participation of IOM “were left lying on the table in the Ministry of Labor.”
Azizova specified that the number of citizens who are banned from entering Russia exceeds the previously stated estimate: there are more than 245 thousand of such citizens. She believes that this figure will grow, as the difficulties in obtaining a labor patent lead to an increase in illegal migration and, consequently, to an increase in the number of Tajik citizens deprived of the right to enter Russia.
“Additional financial resources are needed to implement projects for the reintegration of these citizens,” Azizova said.
The Field Officer at Economic and Environmental Department of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Programme Office in Dushanbe (POiD) Oleg Colesnicenco noted that the OSCE POiD coordinates the work of three business resource centers, where specialists and local professionals provide support to small and medium-sized entrepreneurs.
These business resource centers, opened in 2014 in Shaartuz, Gharm and Kulob, help young entrepreneurs, returning migrants and women (three target audiences of the program) to launch and promote their business.
The OSCE is now also considering a recommendation to open a similar resource center in Konibodom. Advice is provided by competent experts – legal, tax, business consultants and agronomists.
The alumnus of CABAR.asia School of Analytics and the Head “Tajikistan Free Market Center” Aziz Timurov made a forecast: the deterioration of the main macroeconomic indicators in Tajikistan and in the partner countries could lead to acceleration in adoption of reforms in the field of migration. According to Timurov, the economic crisis will change the status quo.
Nikita Bykhovskiy, Coordinator of Youth and Cultural Programs of Rossotrudnichestvo Representative Office in the Republic of Tajikistan, responded to Oynihol Bobonazarova’s statement that Russian policy leads to highly qualified specialists from Tajikistan remaining to live in Russia.
“Today, the Russian Federation is definitely not interested in luring away all the minds of Tajikistan to Russia,” underscored Bykhovskiy. On the contrary, Russia is interested to have Tajik citizens trained in Russia returning back to Tajikistan and engaging in the development of their country in the areas they studied in Russia. Bykhovskiy added that in comparison with Tajikistan, only China and Vietnam received more Russian educational quota.
Despite debating on a number of issues, the experts agreed that the outlined problems in the field of migration can be solved by the following measures:
- The funding for state programs aimed at providing assistance to Tajik migrants should be improved;
- Forward-looking draft laws that have been previously prepared, but not approved, need to be revisited;
- The Migration Service of the of the Ministry of Labor, Migration and Employment of Population of the Republic of Tajikistan should establish a public council, which will give recommendations, protect the rights of migrants and liaise with similar structures in Russia;
- The public authorities should pay greater attention to the proposals to the government made by consultants from international organizations;
- The programs aimed at reintegration of Tajik citizens deprived of the right to enter Russia into the country’s economy should be further developed and promoted;
- During interstate negotiations in the context of other issues, the Russian government should be sought to be made willing to agree on improving the conditions for Tajik migrants;
- Migrant women should be provided with better protection of their rights.The participants of the discussion agreed that their meeting was very useful and that the recommendations designed should draw attention of the decision makers.
Central Asian countries’ expert meetings will be continued in order to promote the stability, peace and reconciliation in the region.