Uzbekistan attempts to get migrant workers to return from Russia
Women are also trying their luck at being paid better by working in Russia © Uznews.net
A government campaign aiming to get Uzbek migrants workers to return home from Russia has intensified with pro-government Uzbek media starting to spread stories of the good salaries available back home.
The Uzbek government hopes that at least two and half million citizens will return to Uzbekistan from Russia.
The campaign began after Prime Minister Mirzieev visited Fergana in June and found that many working-aged men were working abroad. His solution was to order local authorities to compile lists of people working abroad and to provide them with well-paid jobs locally. He did not specify where these jobs would come from.
Uzbek state and pro-government media report widespread meetings by local authorities, at both the city and regional level, enthusiastically supporting the prime minister’s directive and suggesting various means to lure migrants back to Uzbekistan.
For instance, the news website 12news.uz reported that Zoir Mirzaev, the governor of Samarkand province, at a meeting with citizens councils in Kichukmundiyen, emphasized the need for a targeted campaign to get more than ten thousand residents to return by offering them well-paid jobs locally.
“I spent three years roaming through Russia in the vain search of “the good life” promised by some,” 12news.uz cites one local resident, “I witnessed people like myself being forced to live a nomadic life in dirty conditions, without rights in a foreign land. If we were to work as hard at home as we work in Russia, we would make good money.”
Other pro-government media outlets echo this sentiment.
Independent news source Fergananews.com reports that such “explanatory” meetings have been taking place across Samarkand province, in both the city of Samarkand, as well as in the 219 makallya committees (citizens councils), and in all the province’s villages.
Fergananews.com reports that 63,002 people from Samarkand, which has a population of half a million, are working abroad (38,846 men and 24,156 women).
As far as jobs at home are concerned, Samarkand province Deputy Governor Markhaba Gafurova said that three local manufacturers – March 8, Bofand, and Vostok Produkt – are prepared to offer two thousand jobs. She did not provide specific salary figures nor did she clarify what the remaining 61,000 returnees could do for work.
Islam Karimov, speaking in June 2013, called migrants – “lazy”
It has also came to light that makhallya committee chairs have been made to sign pledges that they will have people who are registered in their jurisdictions, who have been living abroad for long periods of time, return home.
The pledges do not stop there: the citizens council chairs making these promises are supposed to include schedules specifying both the number and return dates for these returnees.
Various sources all over the country have reported that families of migrant workers are being threatened with large fines in the eventuality that their loved ones do not return to Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan’s economy is currently in shambles sustained by only by cotton production, which is predicated on slave labor, and the mining of a few natural resources. There are far too few job opportunities available at home for those who remain here, and there are no jobs whose salaries might be comparable to those in Russia and elsewhere for potential returnees.
However, because of its top-heavy governance style regional and city authorities are unable to reject the prime minister’s nonsensical aspiration for Uzbek working migrants to return to the country.
President Karimov was the first one to address the issue of the massive Uzbek economic migration when he called emigrant workers “lazy bums” in June 2013.
According to the Russian Central Bank these “lazy bums” transfer a sum of money equal to a quarter of the yearly budget of Uzbekistan: In 2013 Uzbek migrants in Russia remitted 6.6 billion USD back home.