The aluminum sheds were designed to be garden storage, a place to put something and forget about it. And for more than 20 years, these oblong barrel-like structures have housed a forgotten community of refugees.
Central Asian migrant workers in Russia are dealing with tough times. So it’s no surprise that those working out at a mixed martial arts gym in an industrial part of Moscow’s Donskoy District are getting tough – and most say they’re training for self-defense.
It’s Friday evening on Moscow’s Garden Ring road and Alexander Likhachyov is out to ruin a labor migrant’s night. With the help of two friends, Likhachyov – an athletic Russian in his mid-30s “from a family of taxi drivers and Muscovites” – says he is intent on “leveling the playing field” in a profession he contends that migrants are taking over.
Outside the Altufyevo metro station in northern Moscow a group of about 25 young people, mostly between the ages of 18 and 25, gather. They call themselves “Moscow Shield” and they’ve deputized themselves to help fight against illegal migration.
Khusanjon, a 44-year-old labor migrant from Uzbekistan, was expecting a busy Sunday at the Khovansky construction market in southwest Moscow.
Instead, he and dozens of fellow Uzbeks were rounded up in a raid by OMON special forces on August 4, handed over to local police, and locked in a sweltering garage, where they were beaten and deprived of food.
Traditionally the bulk of migrant laborers in Russia’s Far East have come from China, with a few North Koreans mixed in. But of late, workers from Central Asia have been pushing their Chinese competitors off the lowest rung on the labor ladder in eastern Siberia.
To most St. Petersburg residents, it’s a familiar scene: A group of children commandeer a courtyard for a game of pick-up soccer on a Saturday afternoon, rain notwithstanding. But these kids aren’t used to relaxing so openly in Russia’s second city. They are the children of Central Asian labor migrants, who often fall between the cracks of Russian society.