2015 will be hard for Central Asian migrants since the depreciation of Ruble against the US dollar by 45% percent has caused a reduction of 40% percent in their incomes. Besides, the cost of monthly payment of working permit has been tripled from 1200 Ruble to 4000 Ruble and two additional documents cost more than 10.000 Ruble. For labor migrants who are not members of the EEU, this process is even harder because they have to enter Russia with an international passport (Trilling, 2015).
These conflicts caused debates whether there will be a decrease in the number of labor migrants to Russia in 2015. On January 9, 2015, The Director of Federal Migration Service, Konstantin Romodanovsky’s stated that the flow of migrants decreased by 70% percent in 2015 compared to the same period in 2014 (Standish, 2015). Though for now, it is not certain whether masses of Central Asian migrants are leaving Russia. These arguments will be clearer in spring 2015 when the Central Asian migrants move to Russia for seasonal jobs.
In January 2015, statistics provided by Federal Migration Service showed that there have been 4.3% percent decrease in the number of Uzbek citizens and 2.2% percent decrease in Tajik citizens but 3.8% percent increase in Kyrgyz citizens compared to January 2014 (Schenkkan, 2015). These data show that there has been a slight decrease but not as high as argued in debates. It should also be noted that winter season is the time of departure for most of the Central Asian migrants and the new regulations require Tajik, Uzbek and Kyrgyz migrants to enter the country with their international passport (Hashimova, 2015).
In these circumstances, 2015 also does not seem to have new opportunities for Central Asian migrants who have limited options for new jobs. If they want to look for jobs in different countries, they will have to prefer moving to a border country such as Kazakhstan. But Kazakhstan could only accept a limited number of labor migrants. For example; in 2014 Kazakhstan issued 30,728 working permits and annually attracts approximately 30,000 foreign workers. But the country’s quota was mostly filled migrants from non-CIS countries such as China (31% percent), Turkey (20% percent) and India (8% percent) (Tashkinbayev; Satubaldina, 2015).
Another option for the migrants is returning home country. In this case, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan should be prepared for returning migrants who would significantly increase the unemployment rates in these countries. Among these countries, only Uzbekistan seems to get prepared for a potential return of its labor migrants. The Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Protection, Furqat Khalilov has stated that Uzbekistan has been planning to create 409.500 jobs in 2015 for migrant workers who want to return home. In addition, the Uzbek government will provide zero costs or lease unused state property. Within this program, commercial banks will also provide small loans for the returning migrants to develop their own businesses (Stanradar.com, 2014).
Despite all these incentives, the majority of labor migrants would prefer to find jobs in Russia, legally or illegally instead of living in their own countries. According to The Deputy Head of the Russian Federal Migration Service, Anatoly Fomenko, the number of illegal immigrants in Russia is more than 4.3 million most of whom are citizens of CIS countries (Moscow Times, 2014). This number is expected to increase since tight regulations and high employment costs have made it difficult to work legally in Russia (Bhavna, 2014).
The current difficulties might push a significant number of migrant workers to shadow labor market and work illegally in Russia even though punishments for working without proper documentation are quite strict. In case of violating any migration rules, they could be deported. If they overstay without registering for 3 months, they will be banned to enter Russia for 3 years and if they overstay without registering for 6 months, they will be banned for 5 years. If they stay more than 360 days, they will be banned to travel to Russia for 10 years. According to Konstantin Romodanovsky, there are 1,280,620 migrants who have been overstaying in the country more than a year and 734,000 migrants have exceeded the time limits over nine months. (Hashimova, 2015).
In conclusion, considering all the factors discussed above, it seems that Russia will continue to be the main destination for the Central Asian migrants with a slight decrease in the number of migrants. Legally or illegally, the Central Asian migrants prefer to migrate to Russia in order to find jobs.
Bhavna, D. (2014). Becoming “Legal” through “Illegal” Procedures: The Precarious Status of Migrant Workers in Russia Russian analytical digest No. 159. http://www.css.ethz.ch/publications/pdfs/Russian_Analytical_Digest_159.pdf
Hashimova, U. (2015). What 2015 is promisingfor labor migrantsfrom Central Asia. Central Asia Policy Brief No. 23. Central Asia Program (CAP). https://app.box.com/s/bwoq8p80wfbn7brg2wyczzusx2p8ljhn
Moscow Times. (2014). Over 4 Million Immigrants Live in Russia Illegally, Official Says. Moscow Times newsite. http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article.php?id=507591
Standish, R. (2015). How Russia’s Sinking Economy Could Provoke Unrest on its Doorsteps. Passport. Foreign Policy.com. http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/01/12/how-russias-sinking-economy-could-provoke-unrest-on-its-doorstep/
Stanradar.com (2014). Узбекистан готов к возвращению трудовых мигрантов. Stanradar.com. http://www.stanradar.com/news/full/14393-uzbekistan-gotov-k-vozvrascheniju-trudovyh-migrantov.html
Schenkkan, N. (2015). Impact of the Economic Crisis in Russia on Central Asia. Russia, Central Asia and the Eurasian Economic Union, Russian analytical digest No. 165. http://www.css.ethz.ch/publications/pdfs/Russian_Analytical_Digest_165.pdf
Tashkinbayev, R., Satubaldina, A. (2015). China leads by number of foreign workers in Kazakhstan. Tengrinews news site. http://en.tengrinews.kz/markets/China-leads-by-number-of-foreign-workers-in-Kazakhstan-258997/
Trilling, D. (2015). Central Asians Leaving Russia: Flood or Trickle?. Inside the Cocoon Central Asia Today, Eurasianet.org. http://www.eurasianet.org/node/71981
Note: The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the Institute’s editorial policy.
Zhengizkhan Zhanaltay is a research fellow in the Eurasian Research Institute at H.A.Yassawi Kazakh Turkish International University. Zhengizkhan completed his bachelor’s degree at international relations department of KIMEP University in 2010. He completed his master thesis named ‘Oralmans integration into Kazakhstani Society: Turkish Kazakh Case’ in International Relations department of KIMEP University in 2014. His research interests include international migration politics, labor and ethnic migrants social and economic integration into society and remittance.