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Russia 'Punishes' Tajik Migrants With Entry Denials, Deportations After Terror Attack

Since the deadly attack on the Crocus City Hall near Moscow police raids on migrants have intensified across Russia.
Since the deadly attack on the Crocus City Hall near Moscow police raids on migrants have intensified across Russia.

DUSHANBE -- Qiyomiddin Fakhriddinov, a native of the southern Tajik town of Roghun, has been coming to Moscow to work as a seasonal laborer for 22 years.

He says he has never violated any law and never faced any problem with Russian authorities. Until now.

Fakhriddinov was denied entry to Russia when he arrived at the Vnukovo Airport on a Dushanbe to Moscow flight on April 1.

“The [Russian Federal Security Service] officers seized eight people from our flight and took us to a basement for questioning,” Fakhriddinov said.

“The officers asked me if I would kill for money. When I said ‘no,’ they told me, ‘Your compatriots killed people, didn’t they?’ They kept us in the basement for eight hours. Then they held us for another 26 hours upstairs and then deported us for no reason,” Fakhriddinov told RFE/RL upon his return to Dushanbe on April 3.

Fakhriddinov and the other men have been banned from entering Russia for at least five years.

Qiyomiddin Fakhriddinov
Qiyomiddin Fakhriddinov

Many Tajik migrants have been facing -- or threatened with -- deportation, entry denial, beatings, and verbal assaults in Russia in recent days as anti-migrant and anti-Tajik sentiment rises in the aftermath of the March 22 terrorist attack near Moscow.

Nearly all of the suspects in the deadly assault at the Crocus City Hall, including the four men accused of carrying out the assault, are Tajik citizens.

Zikrullo Saidov, a 21-year-old Dushanbe resident, was denied entry into Russia on March 31 and was sent back to Dushanbe along with nine other Tajik citizens after several hours of interrogation at Vnukovo.

“We asked the officers why they were deporting us for no reason. We asked for how many years we would be barred from coming back to Russia, but they didn’t say anything,” Saidov told RFE/RL after arriving back in Dushanbe.

Zirkrullo Saidov
Zirkrullo Saidov

Saidov believes an immigration officer became suspicious when he saw Turkish arrival and departure stamps on his passport. Saidov said he was then extensively quizzed by security officers about his trip to Istanbul, which he insists was “for work.”

Russian investigators allege that some of the suspected Crocus City Hall attackers underwent weapons training in Turkey.

'Don’t Come Back For 10 Years'

A 27-year-old Tajik construction worker who didn’t want to give his name said he has always had all his “documents in order” in Russia to avoid trouble during persistent police raids that target illegal migrants.

But despite his valid work and residency permits, a Russian immigration officer at the Vnukovo Airport put a deportation stamp on his passport this week, banning him from entering Russia for 10 years. The father of two said it happened as he was leaving Russia for Dushanbe to spend a few weeks with his family.

“I asked the officers why they were doing it to me. They just told me ‘go home and don’t come back for 10 years,’” he told RFE/RL.

A backlash against Tajiks and other Central Asian migrants began almost immediately after Russian media reported that the terrorist attack was carried out by several men from Tajikistan.

As Tajik Suspects Face Charges For Moscow Attack, Other Migrants Face Backlash In Russia
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There have been numerous reports of customers canceling their taxi rides if the driver was Tajik. A cafeteria owned by Tajiks was set on fire in the Far East city of Blagoveshchensk, while there have also been many reports of Tajiks being beaten or verbally abused on the streets.

Police raids intensified across Russia in the background of calls by some politicians and ordinary Russians to scrap a visa-free travel agreement with Dushanbe.

There are no official figures about the number of Tajiks being targeted, but dozens of people have reportedly been detained, fined, and deported despite having valid documents.

An Uzbek migrant worker, who gave his first name as Shuhrat, told RFE/RL that police rounded up about 20 Tajik and Uzbek migrants for questioning.

“[Police officers] beat Tajiks. They did not beat Uzbeks, but they were rude to us, too, and they insulted us,” he said, adding that police also thoroughly checked the migrants’ phones.

Nothing To Return To

The Tajiks who were deported or denied entry to Russia described it as a financial blow to their families.

Russia is home to an estimated 1 million Tajik migrant workers and others who are dual citizens. Working in Russia provides a lifeline for them as there are not many jobs or other opportunities in impoverished Tajikistan.

Zamira, a Tajik doctor who didn’t want to give her full name, says she and all of the other fellow Tajiks she knows in Russia “have no plans to leave” despite the pressures they face.

Zamira and her husband work at a rural hospital in Russia’s Ivanovo region, where the couple have built their “forever home” and made many friends in the local community.

“No one has really said anything to my face, but when I see people being angry about the attack I feel guilty, I feel bad, I wish the [attackers] were not Tajiks, I wish it didn’t happen,” Zamira told RFE/RL by phone on April 3. She said most Tajiks in Russia felt the same.

At least two dozen people from Zamira’s extended family work in Russia with residency permits, and some have applied for Russian passports.

“None of us is going back to Tajikistan,” Zamira said. “We will stay here lying low and hoping it will pass.”

Written by Farangis Najibullah with reporting by RFE/RL Tajik Service correspondents Barot Yusufi, Mullorajab Yusufi, and Mumin Ahmadi
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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the region. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate and reintegrate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

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    RFE/RL's Tajik Service

    RFE/RL’s Tajik Service is a trusted source of local news, attracting audiences with compelling reporting on issues not otherwise covered by Tajikistan’s state-run media.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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