When Rasulov Bakhtier arrived in Abkhazia in 2012 as a migrant laborer, he had no idea he would be prohibited from returning to his native Uzbekistan via Russia. As a result, Bakhtier, a construction worker and father of two, now finds himself among hundreds of “guest captives” in the separatist enclave.
Russia’s Federal Migration Service allegedly has blacklisted thousands of foreigners, mostly from Central Asia and Moldova for violating Russian migration laws, Moscow-based Fergananews.com reported in April. Many are casual labor migrants who supposedly committed multiple misdemeanors, or overstayed their “authorized period of stay” in Russia, which, as the largest economy in Eurasia, attracts millions of economic migrants from other formerly Soviet states.
Complications arise when labor migrants enter a third country from Russia and then try to transit back through Russia to get home. This is especially the case if that “country” is Abkhazia, which only Russia and a handful of other states recognize as being independent from Georgia.
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Paul Rimple is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi.