Blog by Olga Gulina


The Immigration Movement within CIS- countries



Twenty years after the collapse of the USSR, politicians in the newly generated independent CIS-countries do not build common migration strategy, even though it is in each country’s best interest for their residents to pay attention to each other’s social, political, economic, cultural, and linguistic differences. However, partnership and immigration regulation among CIS-counties demonstrate inappropriate “case by case” law regulation that often appears inhumane and unfriendly towards immigrants and natives.



The Post-Soviet nations are clearly divided into those that supply immigrants  and those that receive them. The first category includes Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan while the second category is small and consists only of two nations – Russia and Kazakhstan. In Russia one worker leaving the country is replaced with 12 who arrive; in Kazakhstan the ratio is even greater – 1 to 44. Compare the aforementioned ration with Uzbekistan, Moldova, Tajikistan and Ukraine, where outbound labor migration far outnumbers the inbound flow. The aforementioned ratio in Moldova is 40 to 1, in Uzbekistanis 7 to 1, in Ukraine is 6 to 1. Tajikistan is the “leader”, with the ratio between inbound and outbound migration 1 to 600.[1]



The increase in outbound migration from the Central Asian nations has been caused not only by subjective (population growth, unemployment) but by objective factors as well. In 2012 the International Labor Organization (ILO) issued a report about the influence of ecology on the migration of Tajiks. Climate changes – droughts, soil depletion, declining water quality – play an increasingly important role in migration from rural areas of Tajikistan. Experts claim that the increasingly frequent environmental disasters will cause citizens of Tajikistan to abandon the country’s agricultural areas and lose their land-cultivating skills, and result in a growing flow of low-skilled labor from Tajikistan to Russia.



The GDP of every supplier country depends on the GDP of the recipient country. In 2012, the GDP of Uzbekistan was 96.6 Trillion Som, or $48.3 billion, $5.693 billion of which were recorded legal remittances sent by Uzbek migrants working in Russia; the GDP of Tajikistan was 31,16 billion Somoni, or about $7.5 billion, of which $3.8 billion were recorded remittances of Tajik migrants working in Russia.



In the present post-Soviet landscape, Russia’s only rival in attracting labor migrants is Kazakhstan, which pursues its distinctive brand of immigration policy guided by the principle “the clever guy learns by emulating and evaluating positive experiences of his competitors”. Kazakhstan has announced amnesty for labor migrants and introduced regulations whereby work patents can be bought by citizens of those CIS countries which have mutual visa-free travel agreements with Kazakhstan.



Hopefully, several positive changes in Russia’s immigration policy are underway. At the end of January 2014 Russian Ministry of Economic Development and Federal Migration Service submitted the law draft in granting Russian citizenship in return for 1O Mio. Rub. investment. The Russian Ministry of Labor sent to the ministers a law draft obligating employers to buy sickness and maternity insurance for those workers who work in Russia but do not have either permanent or temporary residence permit. The draft provides that the employers must pay for the insurance 1.8% of the wage, which stands in contrast to 2.8% of the wage for Russian workers. In February 2014 the United Russia Party brought forward an initiative to amnesty all undocumented immigrants in Russia[2].



Considering all of the above, the following measures appear to be advisable. First, Russia and Kazakhstan should recognize that immigrants are needed to redress the demographic balance, to meet the social obligations towards the population and to keep the economy afloat. This is the major step, which ought to be supported with an expansive campaign in the countries’ news media highlighting the positive contribution made by immigrants. Migrations flows are always a competitive struggle the victory in which is by and large conditioned by far-sightedness and shrewdness of the competing parties.



Second, the recipient countries should change the tenor of their official immigration policies towards immigrants.  The member states of the Customs Union have got bogged down in the discussions about how much alien culture and imported genome does not pose a threat to the nation’s backbone. Policies and ideas of non-discrimination should be promoted while any propaganda and statements to the effect that immigration leads to the loss of our nation’s distinctiveness should be weeded out.



Third, the CIS and especially the EurAsEC need an institution responsible for development and application of uniform standards in the free movement of goods, , services and human capital, as well as – and this is especially important – in legal assistance, payment of wages, pensions and social security arrangements for moving human capital; this institution should also have the authority to issue documents binding on the Community’s member states. The current legal framework regulating migration flows, including the Agreement on Cooperation of the CIS States to Combat Unlawful Immigration of 1998 and the Agreement on the Status of Labor Migrants and Their of Family´s Members of 2010, addresses only some issues, and besides, such documents are purely advisory in nature.




[1] Ryazantsev, S., Khoriye, N., Modelirovaniye potokov trudovoy migratsii iz stran Tsentral'noy Azii v Rossiyu. M., 2011.

[2] Russia has 3.5 Mio. undocumented labor migrants (source: Federal Migration Service). Kazakhstan is between 300,000 and 1,000,000.


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