Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation logo

Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights


Fear of returning home and indifference of diplomats

Fear of returning home and indifference of diplomats

The main destination for labor migrants leaving Turkmenistan is Turkey, which does not require a visa to visit. The second most popular country for migration is Russia, where they mainly get through student visas.

You can learn about the situation of Turkmen migrants in Russia from rare news, most often of a negative nature. For example, in April, a bakery was closed in Astrakhan where citizens of Turkmenistan worked illegally. They violated the regime of stay in Russia, and now they face deportation. For six months, from October 2020 to April of this year, a citizen of Turkmenistan, who was in the deportation center in Naberezhnye Chelny, was waiting to return to his homeland.

Turkmen embassies and consulates do not provide assistance to their citizens who contact diplomats directly or through the media. Diplomatic missions also do not respond to requests from the authorities and human rights activists in Russia.

Thus, on April 16, Deputy Interior Minister of Russia Alexander Gorovoy addressed representatives of the CIS countries with a request to carry out preventive work with illegal migrants who are currently in Russia, so as not to bring the matter to their forced expulsion. The official separately emphasized that "he does not see Turkmenistan's steps to return its citizens from special detention centers in Russia."

At the request of «Chronicles of Turkmenistan», journalist and expert in the field of labor migration Ekaterina Ivashchenko spoke to Valentina Chupik, a free lawyer for migrants, the head of the non-profit organization «Tong Jakhoni», who told about the situation of migrants from Turkmenistan.

— How many citizens of Turkmenistan apply to you?

- Citizens of Turkmenistan are no more than 2 percent of the total number of those who turn to us for help. This is only because there are very few of them, unlike migrants from other countries in the region. For example, out of 54,752 people who applied in 2020, only 52 were from Turkmenistan. On average, I am contacted by one person per week from this country.

- What problems do they come to you with?

- Of these 52 people, 11 were in the Temporary Detention Centers for Foreign Citizens (TDCFC) for more than three months, and four were there for more than two years. Two people applied in connection with non-payment of wages, one person - with the deprivation of Russian citizenship, which he received under the Program for the resettlement of compatriots. There was also an expelled student who did not know how to stay in Russia further. There were several requests for Russian citizenship and two requests for refugee status. We received calls from some migrants who ended up in the police for work not in their specialty. Let me explain that in Russia, citizens of Turkmenistan work on a work permit, which also indicates the specialty. In addition, the employer must have permission to hire citizens of Turkmenistan. In the case of the people who contacted me, there were violations on both sides.

People are fleeing from Turkmenistan because of hunger, the inability to develop, receive education, and because of the lack of prospects. They are trying in any way to gain a foothold in Russia. Migrants of Slavic appearance are more or less successful. They are relatively more prosperous and most often ask the question of how to legalize. They are more prosperous, because the police “do not see” them and they do not have troubles that other migrants have. Turkmens are distinguished by a great fear of returning home: despite the fact that they do not have a conflict with the state, there is a huge fear of persecution. As I understand it, everyone has it. People categorically do not want to return to their country.

I had one Turkmen who spent 9 years in the TDCFC - we met him in Tula. His documents were out of date. This man is about 40 years old, he has a wife and two children. Due to expired documents, he could not go to the registry office, so the children were not registered with him either. I asked how to help him, maybe contact the embassy. He categorically refused. It was better for him here, because at least he was fed and doctors looked after him. The maximum stay there is 2 years and 10 days, so the person served his term, went free, and since he could not legalize himself, he was again detained by the police and placed back.

For migration, Turkmens choose Turkey, with which they have a visa-free regime. They most often come to Russia as students or on business visas. This visa is issued for 30 days from an enterprise in Turkmenistan, with which you allegedly go to negotiate or conclude a contract. Very often it is given late and the person has only 10-12 days left. Apparently, the authorities understand that people are doing everything to stay in Russia, and they are delaying delivery of documents as much as possible so that people have little time.

Even 40-year-old people go to “study” to universities and various colleges, some may not know Russian well. A study visa is given for one year, but it can be extended. And you either renew it, paying 30-40 thousand rubles annually for training, or you just get stuck here. In my practice, more than the latter. Although I do not rule out that there may be more of those who study quite successfully here, it's just that the human rights activist does not see the good side.

— What opportunities do the citizens of Turkmenistan have to get legalized in Russia?

- The first is marriage with Russians, but there is a problem that Turkmenistan does not marry off its girls. It is almost impossible for them to get a certificate from the Turkmen registry office that they are not married. But you can buy a fake one.

As HT previously reported, it is very difficult for Turkmen citizens living abroad to marry a foreigner or even a compatriot because of the difficulties in obtaining the necessary certificates. It takes a year or more to get a certificate of absence of marriage from Turkmenistan, while its validity period is no more than three months.

The second is when people try to document themselves with any kind of passports, as long as they are visa-free. In particular, Kyrgyz passports are popular among Turkmen citizens because they are easy to buy. With this passport, you can conclude an agreement without having a work permit, register at the place of residence and generally be happy. But all this in the event that the quality of the fake passport is such that the police cannot distinguish it from the real one. You can buy a real stolen one and live with it. Unlike migrants from other countries, Turkmen citizens comply with all laws (they work officially and live at the place of registration), as they understand that one drive to the police station and they will be deported to their homeland.

- However, it is not uncommon for overdue documents to lead to deadlocks…

- That happens too. One woman moved to Russia under the Compatriot Resettlement Program. She had not yet received citizenship when her 17-year-old son came to visit her. She could not immediately register him and he remained illegal. When she received a Russian passport, in order to legalize him, he had to leave the country and enter. However, since he overstayed his visa, he understood that he would not be allowed back and remained in Russia. Moreover, he managed to get into the police for fraud, serve four months, be recognized as a person undesirable for being in the country, but for some reason he was not deported. This story has been going on for over 10 years. His mother died and only his aunt was left of his relatives. How to solve his issue? No way! He has two options: return to his homeland or get out to a country that will provide him with asylum.

The vast majority of Turkmens try to stay in Russia, but many have a dream to move further away - people are sure that they will receive refugee status in Europe. And it is true. So when you see the news that “14 Central Asian migrants are detained in Romania in a refrigerated van,” it is mostly stories about Turkmens.

I knew one Turkmen woman who came to Moscow as part of the Turkmen delegation to the Russian forum. After my speech, this woman came up to me and said: “I understand that you are a lawyer, I would like to know not for myself, but for the children of my friends, is it possible to stay in Russia and somehow legalize, find a job here?”. Of course, I understood that she was asking for herself and answered that theoretically everything is possible, but this requires a work visa and an inviting employer. I explained that you can’t just take a decision and stay. As I understood, one of the members of the delegation was assigned to watch the rest, because during the conversation with me, this woman made sure that he did not see that she was talking to me.

- Do the citizens of Turkmenistan stay longer than other migrants in the TDCFC?

- Yes. If Turkmens end up in the TDCFC, then this is always for the maximum time.

During the lockdown, the people of Turkmenistan were generally unlucky. Remember the story of a student from Turkmenistan who stayed at the Moscow airport because Russia closed the borders and even students could not come here to study. The native embassy did not come to her, and the only response from him was that it told her: “Stop calling us, they write about you in all the media, you are a disgrace to your homeland!”

Turkmens are also almost the only ones who, during the closed borders of last year, remained in the Moscow TDCFC "Sakharovo". The embassies of other countries took their citizens out, but the two Turkmens who got there in summer and autumn of 2019 are still sitting there. Once again I saw them during my visit to «Sakharovo» this year. They said that they understand that they will sit there for the maximum period.

There were also two Turkmens who were fined last summer for violating the mask regime. Then it turned out that they also had expired visas. They began to pay off, began to bargain, to give the police five thousand rubles for two, but they were told no, they needed 40 thousand from each, and they held out five thousand. As a result, they were filmed and an article for giving a bribe was added to the violations of the mask regime and stay in the country. I could not help them in any way, they were threatened with deportation.

— You often cooperate with employees of the embassies of the Central Asian countries. Did you manage to contact the staff of the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Moscow?

- Never. I have been working in Russia since the autumn of 2006, but until 2009-2010 the Turkmens did not contact me. Maybe because I was less known or the Turkmen didn't know about our NGO. The first appeals were the same as now: people were interested in how they could stay in Russia if they had already graduated from the university.

I regularly invite the Turkmen embassy to our roundtables on migration, and even to one of them, it was held last year and was just dedicated to the Centers for TDCFC, they promised to come, but, of course, did not come. How did I get to them? I emailed them but got the reply that it doesn't exist. Then I began to look for other channels and found a fax on the site, can you imagine - this is an embassy that still has a fax, and they answered! They called me and said they would let me know later who they would send. This was the first and last time I heard from someone from their embassy. They didn't answer the phone or fax anymore.

The bailiffs at the TDCFC also send requests to the embassy so that its employees make a return certificate for their citizens. This paper is only valid for a month. Theoretically, they do it, but they can send it, for example, in six months. The head of «Sakharovo» complained that when he finally received one such certificate, it was two months overdue. In general, the leadership of the TDCFC complains strongly about them.

— Why do you think Turkmenistan ignores the appeals of its citizens?

- This is a consequence of the dictatorship. When the dictatorship was harsher in Uzbekistan, all migrants were also "traitors to the motherland and lazy." This is fully projected on Turkmenistan, but they cannot talk about their citizens like that, because they are friends with the presidents of the countries where they go to work.

However, I do not think that embassies are given direct instructions not to help their citizens. I suppose that such a working climate is being created in which you first of all have to represent the interests of the state, and not waste time on migrants who are illegally in the country.

"Chronicle of Turkmenistan"

Latest News

Uzbekistan: International human rights organisations call on President Mirziyoyev to veto “undesirable” foreigners law
Uzbekistan: International human rights organisations call on President Mirziyoyev to veto...
U.S. Department of State: 2024 Trafficking in Persons Report: Turkmenistan
U.S. Department of State: 2024 Trafficking in Persons Report: Turkmenistan
Crude Accountability: New Report Alert: “Politically Motivated? The Story of Dmitry Leus”
Crude Accountability: New Report Alert: “Politically Motivated? The Story of Dmitry Leus”
День защиты или бесправия туркменских детей?/Gujagyňa...Didaryňa... Mähriňe...Zar Boldym Käbäm EJEM!
День защиты или бесправия туркменских детей?/Gujagyňa...Didaryňa... Mähriňe...Zar Boldym Käbäm EJEM!
Как нелегитимные президенты Туркменистана захватывали власть./Konstitusiýa ynam galmady!!!
Как нелегитимные президенты Туркменистана захватывали власть./Konstitusiýa ynam galmady!!!