Seminar №5. From migrant-phobia to migrant-ology

The NNRI “Knowledge Caravan” celebrated the upcoming New Year celebration by holding an El Clasico style seminar on the 23rd of December 20117. Dr Bakhtiyar Babadjanov presented his report titled: “From migrant-phobia to migrant-ology:  the social stigma and problems of migrant workers adaptation”. The myth of the migrants’ vulnerability to recruitment by the Islamic extremists was debunked on the basis of facts obtained by the author during his field research in a number of Russian cities. Simultaneously, the migrant workers phenomenon revealed the complexity of the discussed problem.

The range of issues discussed was very broad and can be summarized in the below three sections (interstate-political, socio-psychological, criminal):
– the problem of migrant workers is often excessively politicized despite the obvious mutual benefit of the parties (both of the recipient country and the migrants themselves); politicians sometimes manipulate a contrived migrant-phobia especially during the elections;
-for the purposes of political PR campaigns, staged arrests of migrants are shown. Not only those do violate the rules and laws of the Russian Federation, but they also directly or indirectly strengthen xenophobic attitudes towards the migrants;
– meanwhile, a full-fledged interstate legal framework (agreement) has yet to be set up in order to regulate the migrant workers problem; the legal help for the migrants is at its lowest level;
– the migrants are dissatisfied with the work of their country’s consular services, which often show indifference to the problems of migrants asking for help;
– corruption is widespread in Russia public services and departments dealing with migrant issues;
– sometimes media create images leading towards the migrants’ alienation.
– in addition to reaching their main goal  – make earnings, migrants overcome the harsh living conditions, which may be felt  particularly sensitive whilst people are away from home;
– in order to survive and adapt, they create own interaction mechanism amongst themselves, with  their employers and with the authorities;  there are even elites among the migrants (represented by the heads of diasporas, for example);
-migrants set up their own networks, often on a national basis (Uzbek, Tajik groups etc.);
– a comparative study of the future plans show that ‘returning to homelands’ strategy significantly dominates as a priority goal (about 70%) versus staying in Russia; the examples or changing own identities seems to be quite rare amongst the migrants;
– simultaneously, most migrant workers have a low level of education and poor Russian language skills;

– in general,  despite its shortcomings, migration (to varying degrees) mitigates the severity of unemployment in their own countries.
– poor living conditions faced by migrant works may create a favourable environment for their recruitment into the ranks of religious extremists and radicals. In particular, this can be facilitated by the social and mental traumas they receive during their stay in a foreign land;
– certain migrants  are indeed vulnerable to recruitment (this is done mainly via ideological influence), however the majority of migrants show resilience (immunity) against such prospects;
– there is no typical image of a potential extremist and the true reasons for radicalization are not yet fully understood;
– the hardships (discrimination) of women are evident within the migrants’ environment, which sometimes leads them to prostitution.

In general, despite the turbulences within the Russian economy, labour migration is not declined, but tends to grow further. At present, there is a second wave of migration to Russia – represented by the children of the first wave migrants. While for the first wave migrants it was quite characteristic to retain a certain degree of empathy towards Russia due to the recent Soviet times (as shown by the knowledge of the Russian language and a tolerant socio-psychological perception of the Russian reality), this is expressed in a lesser extent amongst the second wave migrants.

There is an obvious need in a further study of work migration’s complex phenomenon. However, at this time we may conclude that firstly, there is an urgent need in significantly improving the work of the consular services of Uzbekistan, making them more receptive to the needs and interests of their migrant compatriots. Second, it is necessary to engage in raising the migrants’ legal awareness and their culture level. Third, it is time to sign all the necessary interstate treaties in this field.