Tajik media pick up on Russian Duma deputy’s call for migrant visa regime following terrorist attack

Tajik media pick up on Russian Duma deputy’s call for migrant visa regime following terrorist attack
Russia was left grieving at least 140 victims after the terrorist attack on the Crocus City Hall concert hall. / Governor of Moscow Oblast, Mosreg.ru, cc-by-sa 4.0
By bne IntelliNews March 28, 2024

Tajik media on March 27 focused on a call made by a Russian State Duma deputy for Tajiks and possibly other Central Asians who want to enter Russia to be made subject to a visa regime.

As reports spread of an upsurge in beatings, vandalism and racism in Russia directed at Central Asian labour migrants following the terrorism atrocity at Crocus City Hall in outer Moscow on March 22 that left at least 140 dead, and possibly many more, Tajikistan’s Asia-Plus picked up on a March 25 report in Russia’s Kommersant in which Duma representative for the southwestern Samara region, Mikhail Matveev, made the demand for a visa system.

Four Tajik nationals who were migrant workers in Russia were on March 24 placed in pre-trial detention accused of carrying out the terrorist attack, claimed by an Afghanistan-based affiliate of jihadist group Islamic State. Several other suspects have been arrested, all of Central Asian origin.

Though the Kremlin might be anxious to quell the backlash in Russia against Central Asians, given that the departure of substantial numbers of migrant workers in the country could produce a critical labour deficit, Matveev stepped forward to push for more security around the entry of guest workers.

He said: “In the context of a special military operation [the term used by the Kremlin to describe its war in Ukraine], the Russian authorities must not allow unwanted elements to enter the country. 

“That is why it is necessary to introduce a visa regime with Tajikistan and, possibly, with some other Central Asian states. This decision does not mean that foreigners will now be unable to enter Russia at all. If we are talking about labour migration, it must be strictly controlled. Today, any resident of Tajikistan can simply buy a train ticket and end up in Russia. In reality, what is happening is not the strengthening of the economy, but the creation of national enclaves and a redistribution of the ethno-confessional balance. If you don’t restrict the entry of such migrants and introduce digital control, the police and intelligence services simply won’t be able to cope with this.”

Forecasting a rise in tensions in the aftermath of the mass killing, the embassy of Tajikistan in Moscow advised Tajik citizens in Russia at the weekend not to leave their homes unless necessary. Uzbekistan at the same time urged its citizens who work in Russia to comply with the stepped-up security measures that Moscow brought in after the attack. Kyrgyzstan advised its citizens to not travel to Russia unless strictly necessary, while Turkmenistan was working on plans to bring students studying at Russian universities home.

There are around 10.5mn migrants from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan working in Russia, according to the Russian Interior Ministry. It is thought that there are many more who are unregistered. Central Asian migrants in Russia are "often confronted with broad social xenophobia that sees them as something of an underclass," a professor, Edward Lemon of Texas A&M University, told the BBC.

Over the weekend, a migrant-owned business was burnt down in the city of Blagoveshchensk in Russia's Far East, while in Kaluga, southwest of Moscow, several migrants were beaten up.

Migrants from Kyrgyzstan complained that they were detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport for two days where they were locked in a room without food or water only to be later returned home. Taxi drivers in Moscow and other parts of Russia reported being asked by clients to state that they were not Tajiks.

Valentina Chupik, a lawyer who works with migrants without charge, told Russian media outlet Mediazona she had received 2,500 reports of "acts of aggression" against migrants in the two days following the Crocus City Hall attack.

More than 30 cases of police torture following the arrests of the Tajik suspects were also reported, Chupik said.

Notably, the list of the Crocus City Hall dead issued by Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations includes two citizens of Kyrgyzstan. They are Maiza Guljigit Kyzy and Edita Jusupova. Aged 20 and 22, respectivey, they worked in a cafe in the concert venue.