Kyrgyzstan Expands Efforts to Protect its
Co-Nationals in Russia
by Paul Goble

On-going series: Crisis in the Caucasus - 2008
The Russian / Georgian Conflict and Its Impact on Azerbaijan

Window on Eurasia: Original Blog Article

Tallinn, November 21 - A rising tide of hate crimes in the Russian Federation directed against Central Asians and the failure of the authorities there to solve many of them has prompted the government of Kyrgyzstan to launch new efforts to protect its citizens who are living and working in Russian cities.

The centerpiece of this effort is a website, which the Kyrgyzstan embassy in Moscow has launched to supplement its consular department, its regional representatives and its cooperation agreements with Russian officials and businesses to provide information to Kyrgyz workers in Russia.

Tazhimamat Shabolotov, the head of the State Committee on Migration of the Kyrgyz Republic in the Russian Federation, said that this site is the first of its kind there, and he expressed the hope that it would provide "necessary information" to the 250-300,000 Kyrgyz working in Russia.

Most of the committee's efforts are directed at ensuring that Kyrgyz workers are in conformity with Russian laws and get the wages they have earned, Shabolotov said. But now, his agency is devoting attention to finding jobs for Kyrgyz in the Russian construction sector who have lost their jobs because of the economic crisis.

But there are bigger problems that the site, the committee and the embassy have to deal with. Myrzabek Karagulov, a lawyer who works in the embassy's consular section, told the site that Kyrgyz living in Russia face not only the usual difficulties of people living abroad but some specifically Russian ones as well.

Among those are a large number of cases when a Kyrgyz working in Russia disappears or becomes a victim of hate crimes. The embassy works with the authorities, Karagulov said, but many such cases remain unsolved.

Most Russian officials, he continued, are prepared to be quite helpful, but some are indifferent or even hostile to the needs of the Kyrgyz guest workers. And consequently, "every Kyrgyz who lives and works in Russia must know his rights and also know how to defend them" should the case arise.

Another Kyrgyz group which is involved in helping resolve these difficulties is the Kyrgyz Union Inter-Regional Social Organization for the Strengthening of Peace, Friendship and International Mutual Understanding. Its president Abdygany Shakirov described what it is doing.

His organization, which was set up in 2001 and now maintains a Kyrgyz Cultural Center in Moscow, increasingly is involved with the failure of Russian employers to pay promised wages, often because Kyrgyz employees have not insisted on contracts, and the difficulties Kyrgyz who have lost their jobs in the economic crisis now face.

But there is one problem that is increasingly serious but that has attracted relatively little notice to date: Some Kyrgyz acquire Russian citizenship in order to better their position but then find that there is no one to intervene on their behalf in dealing with officialdom and consequently are worse off than they were before.

The Kyrgyz embassy can't do anything for such people, Shakirov points out, because they are now citizens of another country, but Russian officials continue to view them almost like foreigners and do not help them get the various registration documents and permissions they need to live and work there.

His group provides a bridge for these people, but its limited resources means that it cannot help all of them who should get assistance. And the Kyrgyz Union head expressed the hope that Bishkek and perhaps Moscow would recognize the need for the work his group is providing and give it some financial assistance.

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