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 Tajik Refugees in Europe: In Search of a Better Life

Over the past few years, thousands of Tajikistan’s citizens have been granted asylum in Western European countries. Who are they and is it easy for Tajiks to get a residence permit in Europe?


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На русском Тоҷикӣ

Refugee camp in Germany. Photo: CABAR.asia
Refugee camp in Germany. Photo: CABAR.asia
The process of Tajiks’ mass exodus to European countries began in 2015, when the activities of the IRP (Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan) were banned in Tajikistan, and dozens of its members were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms.

The announcement of the IRP and the “Group 24” as extremist in Tajikistan caused the Tajik opposition to leave for Europe. After the rebellion of General Hoji Abduhalim Nazarzoda (better known as Hoji Halim) in 2015, the freedom of speech situation worsened in Tajikistan. After the closure of some print media and websites, dozens of journalists also left their homeland and sought asylum in Europe and America.

Some fled from persecution; others left their homeland in search of a better life.

Refugees from Tajikistan in Europe

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Refugees from Tajikistan in Europe, like others, are provided with accommodation, given a certain amount of money, taught language.

Refugee camp in the city of Herford, North Rhine-Westphalia state of Germany. Photo: CABAR.asia
Refugee camp in the city of Herford, North Rhine-Westphalia state of Germany. Photo: CABAR.asia
Narzullo, 29, (who would not give a full name) now lives in Germany. Before that, he studied in Pakistan and worked there for some time, so he thinks that he would inevitably face a prison term on charges of extremism or terrorism in Tajikistan. Since 2010, the government has banned the citizens from studying in religious universities in Islamic countries, citing the fact that Tajik students return from there being too radical:

– Most of those young people who did not follow the Tajik authorities’ call to return from Islamic countries, were sentenced on one or another charge.

Together with two friends from Pakistan, we first went to Turkey, then to Greece, and from there to Germany in early 2017.

Three others tried to get to Germany by another route – through Moscow and Belarus, but did not succeed. In Belarus, they tried to cross border to Poland illegally, but Polish border guards detained them. I do not know what happened to them later, the authorities of Poland and Belarus deported them.

I cannot work or study in Germany right now, since the court proceedings on my case has not yet begun. One of my friends got a residence permit for a year. Another one was denied. I have not yet been called in for an interview.

 

What European Countries Do Tajiks Travel To?

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Among the thousands of Tajik oppositionists, journalists and activists who are seeking asylum in Europe, one can also meet former labor migrants from Russia here. They left the country after the deterioration of the economic situation there and the tightening of immigration laws.

Nargis, 43, with her mother and 4 children, has been trying to get asylum in Europe for three years already. They applied in three European countries, but they all denied her application:

– After the deportation from Russia, my husband was sentenced for theft for 11 years in Tajikistan and is now in prison. Therefore, I went to work in Russia, and the children lived with my mother in Tajikistan, Rudaki district. However, I did not find a good job there and decided to go to Europe.

First, I brought my mother and children to Russia, and then we went from there to Belarus and Poland. In Poland, a few months later we were denied. From there we went to Germany, where we also received a denial twice. Now we are in Netherlands. Here, we have already been denied once, and now we are waiting for the second court.

If I had political problems in Tajikistan, then the chances of staying in Europe would have increased.

I am especially worried about the children. They are very far behind in their studies. Traveling from country to country with four children is very difficult. If I had a good job in Tajikistan, I would never have wanted such a life. I would not trouble my children and old mother like that.

Refugee camp in Germany. Photo: CABAR.asia

Now, when the migration policies of Western countries have changed due to the huge flow of refugees, it has become very difficult for Tajiks to obtain asylum or a residence permit.

According to the Western and Tajik media, in 2016 the Polish authorities denied the right to receive asylum to more than three thousand citizens of Tajikistan; only 539 received a residence permit in this country.

In 2017, about two thousand Tajiks sought asylum in Europe, including about 1200 in Germany. However, the German authorities allowed only 264 citizens to get asylum.

It is commonly agreed that those who were active in Tajikistan, including journalists and civic activists, have more chances. Therefore, some use different tricks to get refugee status, like Safar – another asylum seeker:

– I used to be a migrant in Russia and I could not get my salary there for a year and a half. We had to borrow money from friends constantly to send to parents. I ran into big debts and decided to go to Europe.

As I heard, several journalists received a positive response both in Germany and in Poland. I was forced to create a “case” for myself. If there were no political problems, there would be no chance to stay. Six months ago, I went to an interview, but the answer of reviewing my case has not yet come.

Nevertheless, my brother with his wife and two children received a positive response in Germany due to the illness of their son.


This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial team or donor.

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