It’s the Central Asian labor migrant’s second-worst nightmare (an encounter with violent Russian xenophobes is usually the first): on arrival in Russia, an immigration officer reviews the submitted passport with cold intensity. Then, a red light goes off and a couple of border guards swoop in and lead the would-be migrant away. Border guards have identified another one on the list.
Millions of Central Asians – primarily from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – travel annually to Russia to find work. The economies of their home countries are dependent on these migrant workers’ remittances. At the same time, Moscow is succumbing to concerns about unchecked migration, even though Russia’s demographic troubles point to a possible labor shortage in the not-so-distant future. Those fears have prompted Russian officials to bar hundreds of thousands of migrants from re-entering Russia because of alleged infractions, like working without a permit or failing to register on arrival (most citizens from post-Soviet states do not require visas to enter Russia).
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Bakyt Ibraimov and Hamid Tursunov are writers based in Osh.