Friday, November 10, 2017

Migration’s Orphans – Central Asian Children Left in Their Homelands by Gastarbeiters

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 10 – When Central Asians go to Russia to work as gastarbeiters, they all too often leave behind their children frequently without adequate supervision. Some observers suggest there may be hundreds of thousands of such “orphans” who constitute both an enormous social problem and represent potential recruits for criminal and extremist groups.

            Tilav Rasul-zade, a journalist for Fergana News, says that in that country alone there are uncounted numbers of such children and few institutions which seek to address their needs.  Their relatives, he says, “often cannot or do not want to look after them” and they end up in the streets where they commit crimes (

                “Many of these children are sick,” adds one of the few officials in Tajikistan who works with them. “Some need serious courses of treatment.” Their parents have effectively abandoned them, and they are thus left on their own to beg, to violate the law or to turn to extremist activities.

            They are truly “orphans with living parents” but without orphanages. Dilor Atabayeva, the head of the Consortium Initiative in Dushanbe, says that these children feel less responsible for their behavior and that leads them to get involved in illegal actions of all kinds, including the most extreme and violent.

            Tajikistan can’t get along without migration. Some 700,000 to a million Tajiks go abroad for work each year, and the transfer payments they send home now make up 35 percent of the country’s GDP.  But there are real victims of this migration, and they are in the first instance the children left behind.

            Under international pressure, Dushanbe has been talking about adopting a law on migration that would deal among other things with these children. But the discussion has dragged on for more than five years, Rasul-zade says; and no one has even seen a draft version of the measure.
            Meanwhile, he says, “thousands of Tajik children … risk remaining without parents and are living in the streets.” 

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