Thursday, August 27, 2020

Central Asians in Russia Caught Between Rising Hostility There and Declining Help from Their Own Governments

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 23 – Polls show that almost two-thirds of Russians want tighter restrictions on immigration and naturalization of workers from Central Asia and support Kremlin plans to impose greater controls on them (

            As a result, ever more of these people are trying to return to their own countries but in the last several months, their governments have stopped providing them with much assistance, leaving them trapped in a hostile environment, without employment, and uncertain about their futures (

            Despite Russian media hype which is behind much of the new xenophobia, immigrant workers have not turned to crime – their crime rates are far below those of indigenous Russians – the difficulties these workers face represent a potential threat to both Russia if they remain there and their own countries if they are able to return by can’t find work there elsewhere.

            Earlier this month, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of the Russian Security Council, proposed tightening restrictions on immigrant workers from Central Asia in order to ensure that Russians will not see their jobs disappear once the economy resumes its growth after the pandemic (

            The new SuperJob poll and the comments of Russian politicians about it show that Russians support his proposals and want to go even further, limiting the numbers of immigrants by as much as 80 percent and making it all but impossible for any but ethnic Russians from these countries to have any chance of becoming citizens of the Russian Federation.

            At the start of the pandemic, the Central Asian countries organized charter flights to bring their workers home; but such programs are now either oversubscribed or have ended, landing many Central Asian workers in the Russian Federation in a situation where they have no work and no chance of going home.

            Some have sought to go on their own, but many of these are waiting at the Russian-Kazakhstan border. And Central Asian air carriers have boosted prices to the point that few of these people have any chance of paying for tickets. Moreover, the hard-pressed Central Asian governments have few resources to help those who do manage to return.

            No one seems prepared to help these people, and they have been left to their own devices, a situation that experience suggests will breed anger and even extremism, in Russia if these people cannot get work for long periods and in the countries of Central Asia if they return there and are unable to move abroad to Russia or elsewhere for jobs.

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