Citizenship in a changing world
Case Study Paper
“Immigration problems in Russia and other CIS countries”
David Velenteenko 140303102
Antalya Bilim University
As it is known, the fate of all nowadays CIS countries can be divided into two parts in the modern historical period: the first one is the period of existing USSR and one big republic, and the second period started in 1991 and famously split the whole union of states creating then 15 independent states with their own borders, economic structure, monetary system and policies. Obviously, the collapse of Soviet Union leaded to many problems for so-called post-soviet citizens. In practice some of the states became poorer, while some of them richer; we can say that new emerged countries were not fully ready to such a self-governed structure and their policy were at an impasse. That is why already in 1991 there was created a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) – which is an international organization (international treaty) designed to regulate relations of cooperation between states that were formerly part of the USSR (not all). “CIS became not a supranational entity and operates on a voluntary basis” (Podvolotskiy, 2017). One of the biggest problem with which countries collided after the collapse of the USSR concerned the migration of citizens within the newly formed commonwealth of independent states. Historically, with the USSR citizenship, citizens of the USSR were equal before the common law, regardless of origin, social and property status, race and nationality, sex, education, language, attitude to religion, kind and nature of occupation, place of residence and other circumstances. Equality of citizens of the USSR was ensured in every country that is part of the Soviet Union: “people had one single passport and were equal in every part of the Union” (Olimova, 2005). Considering the migration, in fact, there were not any problems with this at all. People (who had a USSR passport) could freely travel, work and stay within the borders of Soviet Union, while foreign migration was not so popular at that time. After 1991, when people were deprived of citizenship of the USSR, post-soviet countries started to face with flows of immigrants and gradually it turned into a big problem. The aim of this paper is to evaluate the problem with immigration after the collapse of Soviet Union and creation of CIS in 1991. There will be particularly seen 3 countries which are most affected by immigration problems: Russia, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan. Russia and Kazakhstan will be presented as host countries, where migrants illegal migrants come to. These countries will be compared in terms of their internal situations considering migrants, economic performance and policies implemented to restrict migration flows. There will be seen the reasons why migration exchange among that countries is extremely high, consequences of migration crises in these countries and measures which governments are trying to impose to curb illegal and undesirable migration there.
Situation with migration in post-soviet countries
After the collapse of Soviet Republic, new countries “began life with a clean slate”, but of course the past situation and roots stayed in the souls of the post-soviet states. During the Soviet era, the government sent many Russians to live in outlying republics as a means of cultural and political control (Podvolotskiy, 2017). In the early years after the collapse, new-emerged CIS states began the exchange of “native people” between each other – people who were ethically belonged to one country, but were living and worked in other. For example, Russians who lived and worked in Kazakhstan started to return to Russia and Ukrainians who worked and lived in Uzbekistan were coming back to their motherlands. This kind of immigration at first did not pose special threats to the states. People needed to get new passports of their states which they belonged to, and get new residence permits at home. By this cultural exchange and diversities, Russia, for example, became a federation with included in the composition of autonomous republics, subjects and variety of nations and languages. Ingush republic, Abkhazia, Mordovia, Tatar republic, Chechnya and Dagestan in a timely manner became subjects of the Russian Federation.
Following the explanation of Kimlicka Will, Russia became a “multinational” state (“where cultural diversity appear because of transformation of previous territorial cultures to a big nation” (Kimlicka Will, 1995)). Then, coming back to the economical and political distinctiveness of Russia, the country began to acquire “polyethnic” explanation of the K. Will article (“meaning that diversity appears there because of individual or familiar immigration” (Kimlicka Will, 1995)). We can say that nowadays Russia is a good example which combines both of that multicultural state explanations. By the way, this existed cultural diversity leaded to many conflicts between nationalities. For instance “In 1944, Stalin had removed Meskhetian Turks from his native republic of Georgia, deporting them to Uzbekistan. In 1989, Uzbek nationalists rioted against this group they saw as interlopers and many Meskhetian Turks fled for their lives, in many cases to Russia” (Podvolotskiy, 2017). Or Nagorno-Karabakh conflict forced many Armenian and Azerbaijan people flee to Russia. Then, another problem is that non-Slavic people from the depended republics and subjects of Russian Federation started to move to the Western Russia. By holding Russian passport, their movement is not considered as migration. However this fact caused many ethnic conflicts in the western part of Russia.
The second wave of immigration became more complex and countries started to deal with illegal labor immigration and flows of workers from less-developed states to the richer ones. In fact, “Russia became a successor country of post USSR system and it mostly felt the migration boom already in late 1990s” (Gureev, 2015). That is why more talks are about Russia in this paper. The scale of migration of people over the years of independence, which hit the countries of the former Union, led to a significant decline in the standard of living in the majority of population: mass unemployment, and the involvement of numerous socio-demographic groups in the poverty. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the economies of Central Asia experienced a sharp drop in GDP. “According to the World Bank, in 1990-1999, The GDP of Kyrgyzstan decreased 4.2 times, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – 2.3 – 2.7 times, and Uzbekistan – 1.4 times” (Gulina, 2014). The economic decline occurred against the backdrop of continued population growth. The Russian Federation is somehow an exception in this respect, which, in terms of economic development, remuneration of labor, and employment opportunities, is ahead of almost all CIS countries. For people from countries such as Tajikistan, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, etc., labor migration is often the only possible strategy for survival and financial support of the family (Malinkin, 2014). In connection with this, many problems began to arise which exacerbated the socio-economic situation and required the implementation of a consolidated state policy for their elimination. Firstly, the economic situation of post-soviet republics did not provide an opportunity to create a sufficient number of jobs that meet the growing needs of the population. The labor market in the countries mentioned before – is labor-surplus. Secondly, everywhere there started a violation of workers’ rights both in terms of wages and in terms of working conditions. “The lack of effective mechanisms for the protection of migrants exacerbates the insecurity of workers in enterprises” (Olimova, 2005). Employers often violate existing legislation or an employment agreement. Thirdly, a significant part of the young able-bodied population is in labor migration. Their rights abroad, both socially and legally, are not sufficiently protected.
The migration boom that Russia started to experience in late 1990s is continuing nowadays. The flow of migrants to Russia will not cease in the coming years, as it is difficult to expect a sharp improvement in the economic and social situation in a number of former Soviet republics, especially in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldova. “According to the World Bank, Russia today is the second importer of labor after the United States” (Malinkin, 2014). Labor migration has many negative reflections in Russia: a small percentage of assimilated labor migrants, a significant number of illegal migrant workers, “seizure” the whole spheres of economic activity by migrants, which is greatly facilitated by their extremely low salary, 10-12-hour working day without days off, primitive living conditions and other similar difficulties. Moreover, there is an emergence of groups integrated on the basis of ethnicity, which leads to an increase in crime. Also interethnic and intercultural conflicts of migrants with indigenous population are the threat of religious conflicts, taking into account that a significant
part of migrants in Moscow and other large cities of European Russia are Muslims (Podvolotskiy, 2017). The migrant workers who come now mainly from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, agree and will agree to forced labor, trying not to leave the workplace around the clock (the market, construction), so as not to deal with the tax authorities, or with the police or representatives of the migration service. However, despite all that cons and difficulties that occur because of mass labor migration and rising discrimination of labor migrants in Russia, it is really more beneficial for people from some post-soviet countries to come and work in Russia, than to stay in their own countries. Because the economy of their native Central Asia countries is in the really low level and even by doing some “dirty” job in Russia, they will earn much more money than in their countries and by coming back to their homelands, they can afford a lot for themselves for this money. But not all post-soviet countries have so poor economy at the same time. Some countries reoriented their policy and economic system to the rich and luxury level and became highly developed countries among all post-soviet states. For example Azerbaijan, which again one of the main exporter of labor-workers to Russia could reach high levels of development and build their economy by European standards. However, the problem is that Azerbaijan’s economy and welfare is focused on the big businesses, rich people and huge economic and political projects, while not paying attention to people with an average and low standard of living (Olimova, 2005). Market and housing prices and life itself became so expensive in Azerbaijan, while salaries for simple workers who are not businessmen and have no connections, rich friends and relatives – are so low. That’s why so many labor migrants from Azerbaijan coming to Russia for any work and most of them are staying in an illegal basis.
How CIS deals with migration?
Initially, it was planned to create a unified system of legal regulation of migration relations among CIS states. “The main legal document of the CIS in relation to the regulation of migration flows is the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Labor Migration and Social Protection of Migrant Workers” (Podvolotskiy, 2017). In the development of the norms of this document, within the framework of the Commonwealth, a number of agreements have been adopted that regulate the issues of cooperation of states across the whole range of social and labor relations. However, in different times, there were some circumstances that prevented the agreements’ development. For instance the Global Financial Crisis prevented the development of a number of adopted forms. This extensive legal framework failed to ensure effective cooperation between the CIS countries in the context of the global financial crisis of 2008 and the post-crisis period, which is connected both with the reduction in the number of quotas for attracting foreign migrant workers (due to rising unemployment in host countries) and with the growth of the scale of illegal migration. But how countries deal with migration on their own or together (by ratifying agreements and treaties)? Let’s see them separately:
-Kazakhstan (as a host country). It is important to mention that “Kazakhstan is the second well-developed post-soviet country after Russia, where the conditions for labor workers are created and mass immigration flows within CIS also go there” (Pirogov, 2016). So, Kazakhstan, in contrast to Azerbaijan for instance, is trying to make focus on their domestic economy which will suite the life of all categories of people. This country is trying to lead its welfare together with citizens’ needs and requests. By doing so, they decline the number of people who go abroad for work purposes and attract many foreigners for tourism and recreation. However, they also deal with illegal migration from abroad. To prevent mass illegal workers from abroad, in the field of migration, a number of international agreements have been signed. Within the framework of the CIS, a fairly solid legal framework has been established on a multilateral basis. Terms of mutual trips of citizens are stipulated by an intergovernmental Agreement in the format of EurAsEC between the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Belarus, the Kyrgyz Republic and the Republic of Tajikistan. Bilateral agreements on the order of entry and stay are concluded with Azerbaijan, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Turkey, India, China, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and a number of other countries (Pirogov, 2016). Kazakhstan seeks to create a most-favored-nation regime for foreigners arriving to the country. Constant work is under way to liberalize visa and registration procedures, bringing them closer to world standards. “Every year the MDA headquarters for combating illegal migration operates on the border with the Kyrgyz Republic” (Pirogov, 2016). Work is carried out to identify and suppress illegal migration from the territory of Kyrgyzstan, as most of illegal migrants come from this country. Also there are conducted raid activities to identify illegal migrants.
-Tajikistan (as a sending country). This country adheres to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society as a whole. Tajikistan is famous with its high level of unemployment and, as a result, mass migration of citizens from the country. “The scale and dynamics of external labor migration to the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan as a whole have acquired great importance in the life of the population of Tajikistan” (Podvolotskiy, 2017). In accordance with article 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of Tajikistan, every citizen has the right to free movement and choice of residence, departure from the republic and return to it (Olimova, 2005). In this regard, the Government of Tajikistan is not entitled to unilaterally reduce the number of citizens of the republic, traveling for various reasons beyond its borders. However, the departure of labor migrants in search of work must be carried out in an organized manner. The Republic of Tajikistan and the Russian Federation cooperate closely in the sphere of combating illegal migration. Actually, what Tajikistan does is trying to be in partnership with host states (like Russia and Kazakhstan) to provide indirect care of their citizens abroad. It provides a “soft” pressure via different agreements and discussions to the big state to facilitate the process of admission of Tajik citizens on their territory. It is really hard for such countries as Tajikistan to both instantly develop its economic situation and keep citizens within their borders and they seem to be reconciled to this. That’s why Tajik government’ businesses on migration is directed to the foreign affairs and partnership with host states to provide due level of security for their citizens abroad.
-The Russian Federation (as a host country). Every year the problems with migration and illegal migrant workers in Russia gains new momentum. About 20 million foreign labor migrants come to Russia for work and about 10 million of them work illegally (according to the head of the Federal Migration Service – K. Romodanovsky). Many of the foreign migrants refuse to assimilate in the society that adopted them – which causes additional social problems – there is growing tension between local and foreigners, competition for vacant posts is increasing, and the formation of various nationalist movements begins. Moreover, “among native Russians there is a fear of coming migrants and they can discriminate them in terms of nationality or religion” (Malinkin, 2014). “Transparency” of Russia’s external borders, the lack of a reliable system of immigration control, and effective sanctions for violating the established conditions for admission of foreign labor to the domestic labor market in practice lead to illegal labor immigration and illegal stay of foreigners in the country after the end of their work or study. Russian government, in fact, tries to implement different laws and restrictions for migration and in other words struggle with illegal migration, however, in practice these rules and laws do not work or bring any changes and this has a number of explanations. For instance, in 2007 there was adopted a new provision of the migration legislation on the transition to the notification procedure for migration, accounting and simplification of the issuance of work permits (Gulina, 2014). This allowed to many migrants to get working permits already in the first year after adoption. Now the task of the Federal Migration Service of Russia is to ensure maximum control over illegal migration. For this, many laws have been tightened up. This brought some obvious results: annually violators of the migration legislation of the Russian Federation impose fines of about 4 billion rubles in total, a large number of decisions were passed on the deportation of citizens of other countries outside of Russia. All in all, what we see on practice is that Russia struggle with illegal migration by facilitating the conditions for obtaining work visas for citizens from Central Asia to the minimum requirements and conditions. It becomes really easy for migrants to take permits and work legally. However, by doing so, Russia does not eliminate the roots of the problem: migrants come in the same number as they were but most of them legally for now. Illegal migration still take place, because official conditions that Russia provides do not suite some migrants (especially ones from disadvantaged families who cannot achieve legal migration status easily) and they find it better to come illegally. So, the problem simply continues. But what does prevent Russia from adopting strict laws against migration, toughen penalties for illegal migration and introduce a visa regime with the countries of Central Asia? The answer is on a surface. The fact is that within CIS, Russia occupies a leading position as a country of well-developed economic structure among all states and as a successor country of the Soviet Union. Priority and strategic goal of cooperation between CIS countries is help, friendship and economic assistance, which mostly coordinated by Russia as it is. Introduction of a visa regime, strict laws against migration and provisions on the closure of the Russian borders will be regarded as an unfriendly act, will seriously undermine economy of poorer Central Asia countries and will jeopardize the cooperation of the countries within the CIS, determining Russian policy as aggressive one which will cause the economic environment of the developing CIS countries to go to the bottom. Russia simply cannot allow this, as CIS is a really important instrument for Russia in terms of cooperation and partnership against Western states in the international arena. Migration is not such a problem that is worth breaking down the CIS union and it seems that the situation is now in a dead end.
Here I would like to relate the problem with the argument of McNevin Anne’s article and say that illegal migration within CIS will not disappear and countries should learn how to live with this problem. “Deterrence position” which author offers in the article is not suitable for host states as was mentioned before. “Open-border position” on the other hand has already been eliminated as dangerous one and transformed by some agreements. “Threshold position” of host states as well will raise doubts, as we cannot make selection among the migrants within one Commonwealth of states: this will cause debates and unequal treatment. That’s why countries should cooperate in the name of economic development of poorer states and work on economic balance between countries within the Commonwealth. By doing so, and by trying to find an appropriate balance between those three positions offered by McNevin A., the problem can be eliminated by itself and migrants will gradually remain at home as the economy develops in their motherlands. (based on McNevin theoretical explanations, 2017)
Nevertheless, anti-immigration sentiments in Russia are only worsening and we see the effect of this easily. In the past presidential elections that took place on March 2018 in Russia, many candidates in their program put a huge attention to the problem of migration. Some of them were introducing different mechanisms that will help to defeat the migration boom which continuous more than 15 years, some others discussed various ways of development of Russia in order to avoid migration crisis. For instance candidate from “Liberal-Democratic Party” Vladimir Zhirinovsky offered a hard reorganization of migration policy with introducing visa regime with Central Asia countries and make a strict control over already working and living in Russia migrants. His supporters were millions of people and he took 3rd place in the election. (based on the information from the pre-election campaign of the presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky). Other candidates also offered to keep the situation as it is or change some laws. So, the offers are different: soft and hard, but emphasis on migration was made significantly. Even in the pre-election debates this topic was discussed in particular. Candidates understand that this is a big problem in Russia that really affect Russian citizens, take working places and creates not rosy moods; and the more this will be paid attention on in the election campaign – more likely that people will vote for you.
Summing up, the formation of new independent states as a result of the collapse of the USSR and the process of the formation of a mechanism of economic and political integration ties between them caused an intensification of migration flows within CIS. We could see that problem with migration among CIS countries is taking place and is even gaining momentum. Despite the fact, that countries are trying to create some regulations, treaties and formal documents in terms of controlling migration flows, the results leave much to be desired: the problem is either interpreted differently or changing, but does not completely disappear. Because of economic inequality among post-soviet states and political interdependence between countries headed by Russia, as a country-successor of the economic and political principles of the Soviet Union and the most developed one in CIS, it is really hard to make some strict changes in the field of immigration. But the thing is that this problem does not leave indifferent citizens of countries in which this problem is most acutely felt (specially host-states of CIS). Anti-migrant sentiments just rising and if earlier relations to migrants were neutral, now they are moving to the level of phobias, hatred and discrimination. I think migration problem is one of the most powerful problems now within the Commonwealth of Independent States and that this problem should be given more attention, since it is at a dead end. Countries should look for new ways of cooperation in the economic sphere for economic development of less-developed CIS states. By increasing political and economic level of less-developed post-soviet countries, the problem of migration probably will disappear by itself. Citizens of sending countries will stay at their motherlands and will not need to move to the richer powers.
Kimlicka, Will. “Multicultural citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights”, Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 1-33, 1995
Podvolotskiy, Y. “How Russia deal with immigrants”. American Renaissance, 2017.
Gureev. “Immigration to Russia: why everyone wants to get a job in Russia”. TodiscoverRussia internet portal, 2015.
M. E. Malinkin. “Russia: The World’s Second-Largest Immigration Haven”. The national interest FP experts roundtable, 2014.
Olga R. Gulina. “The Immigration and Its Ration within the CIS-countries”. Mosaic of migration, 2014
Pirogov, V. “Migrant Workers in Kazakhstan: No status, no rights”. RIA inform agency, 2016.
Olimova, S. “Migration processes, migration policy and legislation in the post-Soviet countries as a reflection of the changes”. Demoscop weekly agency, 2005.
McNevin, Anne. (2017) “Learning to live with irregular migration: towards a more ambitious debate on the politics of the problem”, Citizenship Studies, 21(3), 255-274.