2017-12-13 | Tolerance
Future in Russia 'dim', say Central Asian migrants
By Arman Kaliyev
MOSCOW -- Central Asian migrants in Russia say they face discrimination and bigotry on a daily basis, turning their hopes for a better life abroad into a living nightmare.
Negative stereotypes about Central Asians and anti-migrant attitudes are pervasive in Russia, making an already difficult life more unbearable, migrants say.
The situation for Central Asian migrants in Russia is said to have become worse following a number of recent terrorist attacks.
Law enforcement agencies began checking the documents of Kyrgyz citizens and other migrants more frequently after the terrorist attack in St. Petersburg earlier this year, Kochkorbay Kutunayev, head of the Kyrgyz diaspora in that city, told Kabar news agency and other Kyrgyz media in April.
Akbarjon Jalilov, a 22-year-old Russian citizen and ethnic Uzbek born in Kyrgyzstan, blew himself up in the St. Petersburg metro system on April 3, killing 14 people.
Inroads for extremism
Tougher administrative measures and the negative attitude of Russian citizens toward Central Asian migrants will become more pronounced in the near future, predicted Sergey Duvanov, a specialist with the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law based in Almaty.
"If you come from a country whose citizens are becoming terrorists more and more often, you're going to be tacitly perceived as a potential threat to stability," he warned.
"This will lead to discrimination at both the administrative and day-to-day level," he told Caravanserai. "In addition, we can expect laws that impose more restrictions on migrants from these countries."
"Islamic State" (IS) recruiters will take advantage of this situation, offering Muslim youth "a different life where justice reigns", added Yelena Alekseyenkova, an analyst with the Russian International Affairs Council.
"That's precisely what is missing for those Central Asian migrants whose hopes for a better life in Russia did not prove justified and who couldn't find a place for themselves in our society," she said. "This makes them easy prey for [terrorist] recruiters."
Such issues can be resolved by the social integration of migrants, including providing them opportunities for careers, helping them assimilate into Russian culture and offering legal protection, said Alekseyenkova.
Migrants without recourse
One evening last winter in Moscow, police officers detained Baktygul Bayaliyeva, 38, who moved to Moscow from Toktogul, Kyrgyzstan, at the Metro supermarket where she worked and asked for her identification documents.
"My documents were in order, but they obviously did not want to let me go," she told Caravanserai. "They pushed me into their car and drove me away somewhere ... and suggested that I pay them off. They let me go after I gave them 3,000 RUB ($51). At that time, that was almost an entire week's pay for me."
Even though such incidents occur regularly, most Central Asian migrants in Russia prefer to stay silent about the infringements of their basic rights, either out of fear of trouble with the authorities or of deportation, Bayaliyeva said.
Russian discrimination against Central Asian migrants is widespread and affects members of various nationalities, activists say.
Discrimination toward Uzbekistani nationals in Russia has not changed over the years, Alijan Khaydarov, president of the Uzbekistani diaspora in St. Petersburg, and Suratbek Abdurakhimov, director of Uzbegim, an Uzbek cultural association in St. Petersburg, both told Caravanserai.
In such a situation, many migrants have little hope.
"Ever since I arrived, life in Moscow for me has been a constant battle for survival filled with stress and fear and requiring unlimited patience," Farkhod T., 35, who migrated to Moscow from Namangan, Uzbekistan, five years ago, told Caravanserai.
"The future for us in Russia is very dim," he said.
[This is the second of a two-part series on Central Asian migrants in Russia. The first part -- Central Asian migrants say they suffer as 'second-class people' in Russia -- was published December 8.]