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Life in Russia has become difficult for migrants from Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries since four Tajiks were among those arrested for allegedly killing 145 people in a terrorist attack at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow on March 22. The Islamic State terrorist group took credit for the massacre.

In the Siberian region of Novosibirsk, for example, officials have prohibited migrants from driving taxis or selling beverages and tobacco at shops, reported the Moscow Times. Migrants from Central Asia have also faced hassles obtaining their work visas, added Radio Free Europe.

Migrant advocates accused Russian security officials of conducting sweeping raids, unlawful arrests, beatings, and mass deportations to kick potential terrorists out of the country, wrote the Daily Beast. The police often target folks who aren’t blonde and blue-eyed like many Russians, the advocates claimed, saying some are forced to pay bribes to be allowed to be freed after being detained.

Since the Crocus City Hall attack, about 6,000 cases against migrants have been filed with the courts, the publication wrote. And migrant advocates said about 2,500 acts of aggression were reported in the two days following the attack, the BBC wrote.

Leaders in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan now fear the harsh policies could endanger the remittances of money from the estimated 3 million Tajik workers in Russia, a vital revenue stream for corrupt, authoritarian Tajikistan’s lackluster economy.

Tajikistan’s Ministry of Labor has recorded a surge of its nationals leaving Russia, Reuters reported.

At the same time, noted Business Insider, the crackdown on migrants will further undermine Russia’s already precarious economy after more than two years of Western sanctions. Russia already suffers from a serious labor shortage. It has perhaps 5 million migrants working in the country now because they are necessary for many local industries and services.

For example, in North Ossetia, garbage piled up on the city streets after security forces detained foreign employees of local garbage companies, the Times of London wrote.

Testifying to the lack of able-bodied Russians, officials in the Kremlin have been drafting migrants who otherwise would be performing low-wage menial jobs into the Russian army, added the newspaper. These developments have led to ethnic tensions that Russian President Vladimir Putin likely wants to suppress so they don’t somehow complicate his war in Ukraine, contended the Kyiv Independent.

As the Diplomat explained, plenty of Muslims in Central Asia have fallen victim to radicalization exported from Afghanistan and elsewhere. Russia’s fight against jihadists in Syria and other places, furthermore, has made the country a target of the Islamic State and other militants. More than 2,000 Tajiks joined terror groups in Syria and Iraq between 2012 and 2018, for example.

Instability has helped foster support for the Islamic State in Tajikistan, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Soviet officials didn’t pay much attention to the country, leaving it underdeveloped. After the fall of the Soviet Union, a civil war in Tajikistan between 1992 and 1997 claimed 100,000 lives. The country is the poorest of the former Soviet republics. Seventy percent of the population live in remote, rural areas where child marriage, polygamy, and high unemployment rates among women are common.

“Few nations in history have seen their standing so dramatically reduced as the Tajiks have over the past 100 years,” wrote Concordia University religion and culture professor Richard Foltz, in the Conversation, attributing some of the blame to Russian policy toward Tajiks in that period. “Russia’s laughable attempt to somehow link the Moscow attacks to Ukraine is a clumsy diversion from the consequences of its relations with Central Asia.”

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