Norms and Values
Adaptation of Foreign Migrants in Russia: A View from Tajikistan

The manipulation of migration issues for political purposes, the spread of misconstrued facts, various kinds of phobias and prejudices do not contribute to the formation of a tolerant environment in society, or the creation of a favourable environment for the reception and accommodation of migrants, writes Valdai Club expert Rashid Alimov.

Problems concerning the adaptation and integration of migrants have been acute for Russia for more than a decade. The country acts simultaneously in two roles, receiving a large number of immigrants, and sending its citizens to other countries for work and permanent residence.

“The Social Problems of International Migrants” Valdai Club report provides answers to many questions of concern to everyone involved in migration issues. The report seeks to comprehensively and accurately reflect the acute, complicated problems that foreign migrants face in host countries, particularly Russia.

The discussion of this topic at Valdai once again emphasises the importance that Russia attaches to the continuous reflection and improvement of migration policy in the context of the country’s economic, demographic and social development.

Over the past three decades, Russia has accumulated extensive experience in receiving, adapting and integrating migrants. This process is constantly being improved, since with each new wave of mass migration its directions, nature and forms change. The legal and regulatory framework of Russia related to migration is also changing, more and more towards an integrated approach to solving migration-related issues.

Migrants are quite sensitive to changing reception conditions (political, legal, economic, socio-cultural), to how Russian society as a whole and the regions, in particular, accept migrants, including those from Central Asia. It is obvious that where the level and quality of the organisation of reception is higher, and where the entire infrastructure works effectively, Russian legislation is strictly observed; a migrant quickly adapts to the new environment for him. Where artificial obstacles are created in order to keep the migrant from adapting to new conditions of life, corruption flourishes; in this “grey zone”, criminals rule the roost rather than the state. And this, as we know, is the beginning of another story of “adaptation” among migrants.

Tajik migration to Russia has its own history, which has seen both dramatic events (especially in the early 90s) and wonderful stories, as well as heroes worthy of attention, not only among the Russian public, but also on the world stage. It should be noted that since the beginning of the new century, interaction in the field of migration has been one of the high-priority areas of cooperation between the Republic of Tajikistan and the Russian Federation. This topic is invariably on the agenda of meetings between the presidents of the two countries. Both parties view labour migration as a mutually beneficial process, and it really is.

According to official data of the Main Directorate for Migration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, in 2021 768,727 citizens of Tajikistan got patents for labour activity and contributed about $900 million to the Russian budget. At the same time, according to the Central Bank of Russia, the amount of money transfers of individuals from Russia to Tajikistan through payment systems amounted to $1,795 million; moreover, 94% of this amount was transferred in rubles. Such numbers speak for themselves.

In addition, as a result of joint work in Russia and Tajikistan, about 200 thousand Tajik citizens over the past two years “came out of the shadows” and legalised their stay in Russia. At the same time, in August 2021, the so-called “migration amnesty” was applied to 120,490 citizens of Tajikistan, which opened up the possibility for them to return to Russia and continue working.

The geographic distribution of the Tajik labour migration diaspora is as wide as Russia itself. This has been facilitated by over 80 interregional agreements and memoranda between the two countries. Tajikistan pays great attention to improving the efficiency of pre-departure vocational training and Russian language education. In mid-November 2022, a representative office of Moscow’s multifunctional Sakharovo Migration Centre opened in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, where applicants can obtain a permit to work in Russia in advance. The opening of centres for the organised training of labour migrants is under consideration.

Interaction between Russia and Tajikistan in the spirit of strategic partnership is yielding positive results. At the same time, there are a number of issues related to the adaptation of Tajik labour migrants within Russia. Let’s highlight some of them.

It is important how the state and society accept migrants. This largely determines how a migrant perceives the society in which he finds himself. The current practice shows that long before he receives working papers or his first month’s pay, a migrant spends a lot of money in order, for example, to undergo the procedure of state fingerprint registration, as well as on an additional medical examination, a Russian language test, a test on his knowledge of the history of Russia and the fundamentals of the legislation of the Russian Federation, and on medical insurance documents. At the same time, no one offers a 100% guarantee he’ll get a work permit.

The next problem is the registration of an immigrant at his place of residence. The topic is not new; it often attracts the attention of not only the regional but also the federal media, but the problem remains. The way out is to simplify the procedure for the migrant registration of foreign citizens in the Russian Federation. Many migrants link their expectations to the draft of a new law on the reorganisation of migration registration, which is under consideration by the State Duma. According to the plan, the new law should take into account the current practice in this area.

It is impossible to bypass the topic of non-payment of wages. Unscrupulous employers continue to deceive labour migrants. In this case, deception, as a rule, takes on the most sophisticated forms. The deceit concerns not only migrants, but also the state, since it often involves tax evasion. That is why it is so important that such rules should be developed under which no one would go beyond the legal framework: the migrant should get payment for his work on time and in full, and the employer should pay taxes to the state.

Politicians, legislators and the media can facilitate the integration of migrants into their new sociocultural environment. The question is what language they choose to assess certain events and phenomena in the migratory environment. It is obvious that the manipulation of migration issues for political purposes, the spread of misconstrued facts, various kinds of phobias and prejudices do not contribute to the formation of a tolerant environment in society, or the creation of a favourable environment for the reception and accommodation of migrants.

Russia was, is and in the foreseeable future will remain one of the main recipients of Tajik labour migrants. And not only. For example, out of the total number of Tajik students studying abroad, 76% choose Russian universities for higher education. In fact, in the academic year 2022-2023, this figure exceeds 30,000 students. The most popular specialties include general medicine, dentistry, law, economics and management. The trend of educational migration (as well as labour migration) will continue for many years to come, as Russia is one of the most attractive countries for citizens of Tajikistan.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.