Three months into Armenia’s membership in the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union, the search for work in Russia, a longtime regional employment-hub, has become as much about finding ways around bans on Armenian migrants as about finding an actual job.
Russia’s Central Bank has released new data showing drops as steep as 15 percent in the amount of money transferred by individuals to Central Asia in 2014 versus the year before. Much of that cash – no one can say exactly how much – comprises remittances from labor migrants.
Central Asia’s dependence on remittances from labor migrants in Russia has long given the Kremlin a powerful lever to manipulate the region’s politics. Now, new regulations are making finding work in Russia more costly and difficult for many Central Asian guest workers.
It is the holiday season in Kyrgyzstan and thousands of laborers have come from Russia to celebrate with their families. But this year, some are unsure if they will return in spring, the traditional migration season.
Sardor Abdullayev, a construction worker from eastern Uzbekistan, had planned to go to Russia next spring to join relatives working construction sites in the Volga River city of Samara. But now, he says, “I am better off staying at home and driving a taxi.”
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.
Judging by the long line outside the Russian Embassy in Tashkent one recent afternoon, new Russian legislation offering citizenship to Russian-speakers is prompting lots of individuals in Uzbekistan to ponder emigration. Some see a chance to escape economic woes; others, stymied by Uzbekistan’s own Byzantine bureaucracy, want to seize on an opportunity to obtain a proper passport.