Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 134

Besides drugs, the Tajik authorities are now turning to labor force traffic as a possible source of income for themselves and the state budget–those two ledgers of one and the same accounting sheet in Dushanbe. As with drugs, the main market for Tajik hired labor is Russia. But while the drugs commerce is unlawful and semitolerated, the Tajik and Russian government contemplate legalizing and taxing what has until now been a spontaneous, partly undocumented movement of Tajik labor into Russia.

On July 10, Tajikistan’s Prime Minister Okil Okilov discussed this issue in Dushanbe with the visiting Aleksandr Blokhin, Russia’s Minister for Federation, Nationalities and Migration Affairs. “Labor migration is an urgent topic for Tajikistan,” Okilov declared. He proposed setting up a legal mechanism for Tajik labor migration to Russia and creating “normal living conditions for [Tajik] seasonal workers” there.

The government in Dushanbe has recently created a labor recruitment mechanism through the Youth Committee, an official government body. The committee seems to function like a labor exchange; in Tajik conditions, this almost certainly means that its officials are on the take at the expense of those hired. Youth Committee officials have begun visiting Russian regions and signing agreements to send Tajiks laborers to Russia for seasonal work.

The great majority of those laborers are unskilled, rural youths. Accounts about their living and working conditions have recently begun filtering out from several Russian regions. The accounts describe wretched living and working conditions, starvation diet, and widespread extortion by Tajik and Russian officials and entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, on the drug front, Russian authorities seized a 30-kilogram heroin consignment on July 2 in Astrakhan on a train arriving from Dushanbe, a 100- kilogram heroin consignment arriving by truck to Samara on July 7 and a record 120-kilogram heroin consignment again in Astrakhan on July 10. Both routes are standard ones for heroin produced in northern Afghanistan and shipped via Tajikistan to Russia. Russian officials admit that they intercept an estimated one-tenth of the amounts shipped. The huge size of these latest loads confirms that the drug traders feel reasonably safe (Dushanbe Radio, June 23, July 10; Itar-Tass, July 5, 7, 10; ORT Television, July 10; Institute for War and Peace Research, Central Asia report no. 58, June 29; see the Monitor, February 9, March 12, June 13).

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