Finally I’m writing again about migrant workers, a subject that right at the moment interests very few people.
Data on remittances by private individuals from Russia to other countries for the first quarter of 2018 has been released by the Russian Central Bank after a great delay. Here is the picture they present.
Uzbekistan was the leader among the CIS countries. Its nationals remitted $726 million, which is 17% more than in the first quarter last year.
Tajikistan came in second place with $487 million, which is 15% more than the same time last year.
Kyrgyzstan took third place with $434 million, 9% up from the first quarter last year.
The figures thus show a significant increase in remittances, which testifies to an growth in the wages paid to migrant workers and an increase in the numbers of migrant workers themselves. Remittances to Kyrgyzstan have been growing more slowly, but in fact that means a large portion of the money earned by Kyrgyz nationals now stays in Russia to be spent on setting up their lives here.
P.S. By the way, the champion in terms of private remittances received from Russia is Switzerland—to the tune of $1.7 billion.
AntiNote: Hafsa Sabr is a vital presence at the enormous, improvised, and barely survivable camp in Dunkirk, northern France. She has been instrumental both in coordinating with independent aid and solidarity organizations operating in the camp as well as in insurgent media work, filming conditions in camp and reporting day-to-day on activities and incidents there.
The following could be a model script for the dystopian road-trip movie of the future. Its hopeful, tragic anger not only fits the Antidote vibe, but it also reveals much about revered institutions and the real effects their often arbitrary decisions have on people. We have edited it lightly for clarity, and thank Hafsa for her kind permission to print it.
Geneva or Bust
23 January 2016
by Hafsa Sabr
We need to talk. Everyone asked us what we did in Switzerland. This is our answer.
One week ago we heard that the UN would make an urgent conference in Switzerland: A journalist from New York came with her team to film the miserable conditions in the camp. She also made interviews. Her video was supposed to be shown during the UN meeting!
At this moment we all thought that the UN could change the world, and would make huge decisions about the camps of Dunkirk and Calais.
On Tuesday morning we (Sarhang, Besh and I) prepared ourselves to go to Paris. We were in a hurry and positively excited, thinking about what we were going to say.
We had an invitation from the UN, and that’s right: Sarhang and Besh are refugees and they don’t have any passport or ID card, but according to international laws on humans rights after 1948, everyone is free to travel anywhere.
Anyway, in Paris we met the journalist, Dina. She organized the way to participate in the conference (the open forum “Immigration to Integration”) and talk, mainly about the jungle in Dunkirk and the more than three thousand refugees there—men, women and children, and babies of course.
In the train station the French police surrounded Sarhang and Besh. They said they could be potential terrorists! I told the police guy that the refugees ran away from ISIS; how can they be terrorists? After ten minutes of negotiations they let us go to take the train.
While we were in the train, the journalist told us that the UN warned the police! Because Sarhang and Besh don’t have any papers! And if they enter Swiss territory, some people who invited us will be fired from the their jobs. This is the UN.
We wanted to go back home! The UN canceled our invitation!
When we crossed the border from France into Switzerland, at the first train station the border police stopped us. They were looking for us! They put us in jail for almost six hours! We were interrogated! And one guy from the police told me, “I’m sorry, what I’m going to say might hurt you, but we received the order to focus on Arab people. We don’t distinguish between Kurdish or Amazigh.”
After a few hours they asked for a lot of money from us. They wanted 170 euros. Sarhang and Besh could not afford it, so they let them off it. We even showed them the paper of invitation, but they didn’t care…After that, they told us we were all free. On our way to the last train to go back to France, a woman and a man from the police team stopped me once again and told me to stay here, and to pay 480 euros in taxes!
Sarhang and Besh told the lady they would not go back to France without me. I warned the two police that I would not give one euro to them because this money in my wallet was not mine! This money was for the refugees! And in my religion it’s called amana, which means a trust! I was upset and crying. The police man was kind. He told us, “I know that, but it’s my boss’s orders…otherwise I’m so sorry for what’s happened to you.” We were disappointed about everything, and we went back to the police office.
I will stop here and go back to history, to the 1880s when the people of southern Europe ran away because of inequality and the dictatorial law of rich people. Many people sacrificed to get to a life with rights and safety. In 1908 the same thing happened in Europe with African people.
And now in 2016, in a period of modernity and technology: in power and politics, no one cares about people who fled because of war, even Kurdish people who are fighting ISIS.
Dina was in contact with UN staff to find a way to get us free of the Swiss border police. But after another five hours they fingerprinted Sarhang and Besh. Then the police started shouting among each other. And then they let us go. We were FREE. El hamdullilah.
We thanked the one kind policeman, he had tears in his eyes.
We returned by bus to Mulhouse, and we slept there; the day after, we took a train to Paris and from Paris to Dunkirk. We were “home.”
We had spent a lot of the money that the refugees raised to help Sarhang and Besh join the conference. But it’s the UN: everyone in the jungle was waiting for great news from Sarhang and Besh. Unfortunately, they didn’t have anything to say.
They had a last hope with the UN.
Just think about it: the UN made a conference about refugees in Dunkirk and Calais, but they didn’t let one refugee come to represent them.
Shame on them.
They called the cops! The UN.
I give up on humanity.
Please share this post as much as possible.
Sarhang, Besh and Hafsa
* * * * *
The Russian Reader has strayed fairly far from its usual beat here, seemingly, but in fact I have been covering as well as I possibly can not only the treatment of refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants and migrant workers in Russia itself (including Syrian refugees) but also attitudes towards Europe’s refugee crisis in the Russophone world. I thank Ed Sutton for permission to repost Hafsa Sabr’s story on my website. You should think about reposting it wherever you can, too. It does not amount to much, it’s true, but it is one tiny way to show your solidarity with people like Sarhang and Besh.
As the ruble has been crashing through the floor the past couple days, Petersburg Channel 5 wanted its viewers focused on what really matters: the allegedly rampant eating of dog and cat meat in “civilized” (wink, wink, sneer, sneer) Switzerland.
Broadcast and posted on December 15, the story‘s headline, above, reads: “Furry farm. In Switzerland, they want to ban Christmas meals of cat and dog [meat]. On the eve of Christmas, they want to ban residents of Switzerland [from eating] one of the national holiday dishes. It turns out that the civilized Swiss are not averse to treating themselves to the meat of pets.”
The piece ends with a warning that cat and dog flesh aren’t “national holiday dishes” only in Switzerland. This form of barbarism is also a problem—you guessed it—in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, back in the realm of news that would matter to Petersburgers who haven’t lost their minds, as late as yesterday afternoon (December 16), Channel 5 was claiming the ruble had gone on a “counterattack” yesterday morning.
Apparently, this tactic of downplaying the real news has been the pattern in other Russian mainstream news outlets:
While the ruble collapsed 10 percent on Monday, making headlines around the world, some Russians may have been unaware of the recent intensification of their currency’s woes.
A prime-time news bulletin broadcast by state-owned Channel One at 9 p.m. on Monday only featured a short segment on the currency drop — the fifth item on the news program — after reports about the terrorist attack in Australia, the killing of a terrorist suspect by law enforcement authorities in Russia and two announcements by President Vladimir Putin on military parades and construction targets.
When the report on the ruble was shown it blamed the decline in value on the falling price of oil —despite the ruble’s fall being significantly sharper Monday than that of Brent crude and actually starting against the background of strengthening oil prices.
The apparent unwillingness of Russian state-owned media to give airtime to the ruble’s troubles — particularly among television channels, which are traditionally much more tightly controlled by the Kremlin — likely reflects the political sensitivity of the issue, and a desire to avoid fueling panic.
Most Russians get their news from state television, which has closely mirrored Putin’s anti-American rhetoric during the Ukraine crisis.
In a popular sleight of hand, state-owned news outlets have preferred to phrase ruble falls in recent months as euro or dollar rises. “Western currencies gained in value at breakneck speed all day Monday,” one report on state-controlled NTV read late Monday.
The Central Bank’s emergency overnight decision to raise interest rates to 17 percent was reported by most major television channels Tuesday morning, but in many cases was quickly pushed down the news agenda by reports of snap military drills in Russia’s western Kaliningrad region.