The sorry plight of Tajik migrants in Russia

Tajik migrants cleaning Moscow street

           Tajik migrants cleaning Moscow street


By Slava Tsukerman

In 2018, the number of foreign citizens who entered the territory of Russia for obtaining permanent residence already reached six million.

People from countries, where the economic situation is worse today than in Russia, are going to Russia in order to find jobs. Mostly they are coming from the former Soviet Republics. According to 2017 statistics, countries that are sources of migration to Russia included:

Uzbekistan (more than 2 million people).
Ukraine (more than 2 million).
Tajikistan (about one million).
Kazakhstan (45 thousand).
Armenia (30-35 thousand).

Among the countries that are not former Soviet Republics, the majority of the migrants to Russia are supplied by China, as well as by Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Turkey.

Statistics show that about 60% of migrants have entered the country illegally or have expired documents.

Some foreigners come to Russia just to make some money and go back home; some try to stay.

Different Russian sources present different statistical information about the presence of foreigners in today’s Russia. According to Wikipedia, ten million foreigners are working now in Russian Federation.

Lately the Russian Federal State Statistics Service reported a number of changes in migration legislation.

Punishment for violations of the regulations of residence in the country was strengthened. The amount of fines had been increased. In some cases, people are deported without the right to return for up to 10 years.

Upon arrival in Russia a foreigner is given 15 days for registration. Initially, this period was a week, but it is clearly not enough for migrants. If a person did not register in time, then his/her stay in the country is illegal.

Migrants often are victims of exploitation by corrupt Russian officials.

Lately there appeared some signs that the migrants are willing to take their defense in their own hands. Last year the night storming of the shopping center Moscow by a crowd of several hundred migrants from Central Asia made a sensation.

Security guards of the shopping center had beaten a package loader, Novruz Karimov , a 27-year-old Tajikistan citizen.

Tajik loader at the Moscow shopping center

         Tajik loader at the Moscow shopping center



According to the version of the popular newspaper “Komsomolskaya Pravda”, the loader was beaten almost to death due to the fact that he refused to pay  guards a daily “share”. The loaders, in order not to lose their job, are forced to pay, although all of them have work permits and they have every right to work in Russia.

In the conflict of the guards, the sum in question was about 400 rubles (less then $7). Karimov was brutally beaten in the security room. He was beaten so badly that he lost consciousness and stopped breathing. The guards thought the guy was already dead. He was wrapped in some kind of cloth and put in a garbage container at one of the exits from the shopping center. Some people saw it, opened rags, and discovered a bloody man. An ambulance was called. The loader was taken away.

After learning about the beating, hundreds of workers of the shopping center, people from Tajikistan tried to storm the shopping center, but could not overcome the high fence. Tadjiks demanded the guards who had beaten the loader.

Police confront Tajik workers at the Moscow shopping center.

         Police confront Tajik workers at the Moscow shopping center


The riot failed and the police conducted a raid against the migrants. More than ten people have been detained. But in the morning one of migrants told reporters that they themselves would from now on seek and “punish” their offenders.

Most of Russian media comments were not on the side of migrants. Some considered migrants protests especially dangerous and demanded police to be rougher.

FSB chief Aleksandr Bortnikov declared, “Migrant communities are hotbed of terrorism in Russia.”

Though it is obvious that migrants in part come to Russia because of its needs for inexpensive workers, many Russians are actively opposed to migration.

There are also Russians with different opinion. The website witnesses (

“Opponents of migration believe that by agreeing to a low pay, visitors are preventing Russians from getting a decent salary. In fact, the growth of migration practically does not affect the level of wages either in the whole country, or in the certain sectors of the economy.

“Others believe that the number of migrants affects the growth of crime. In fact, this is not so. Visitors are much more serious about compliance with laws, fearing deportation. According to official sources, 10 million foreigners living in the territory of the Russian Federation are responsible for only 2% of the crimes committed in the country. And a significant part of them is connected only with violations of the requirements of the migration control.”

Among the commentators there are also those, who are concerned about the conditions of the life of migrants.

Here is a quote from FaceBook post of “X”, a human rights activist, a known film critic and filmmaker, who made a documentary on the Holocaust. In the building where X lives there is a one room apartment rented by seven Kirgiz women. One of them, Ika sent to X a text message that she does not want to live anymore. She was not paid wages since last November.

X writes:

“Ika is a wonderful girl of rare kindness.

“I wrote to her employers that they would go to court if they will not pay their employees. They promised to pay. And they did not pay. From November they gave the girl a couple of times 4,000 rubles ($66). The wages are 35,000 rubles ($583) a month. The working day is up to 18 hours (!!!).The employer is a large company that distributes waitresses throughout the entire huge city. They go where they are sent. Transport costs are not paid. They are rarely fed, if a hungry waitress has eaten food remaining on a patron’s plate, she is fined. The girls are also forbidden to bring to work place their own food (!!!)

“It reminds Auschwitz! I’m almost a specialist in camps, sorry, that’s my job. Kirgiz waitresses are forbidden to ask questions. I’m not a Russophobe, but their overseers are all Russian. ‘Very wicked’, says Ika, who never hates anyone.  She always smiles, when she does not cry. She cries sometimes when she sees a photo of her daughter, who remains in Kirgizia. She has not seen her for a long time.

“Ika works even when she is sick: she bought boots for 500 rubles, they immediately broke down. The system works like this: one is not paid, and if one goes away, one certainly will never be paid. They are kept on a leash. According to some posts in FaceBook, Ika’s boss does not pay taxes and keeps Kyrgyz girls for cattle, cheats with salaries and so on. The boss bribes tax inspectors.”

Updated: March 19, 2018 — 5:08 pm