Reviews

This study offers a good overview over the complex subject of migration in Tajikistan today. In some domains more than in others, less detailed, it introduces the various aspects of migration enriched through numerous tables, graphs, and interview passages, while taking cultural specificity into consideration. For those engaging in migration research in Tajikistan, this study provides the necessary overview, as today “no sector of society has remained untouched by it (p.8).” The study is rich in data and takes various aspects many of which would deserve a separate study. The text itself resembles more a report than a scientific study due to its rich primary material, yet a rather limited discussion and engagement with scholarly literature and discourses on this topic. In its twelve chapters, the study is well structured whereas some topics pop up in several chapters under different views (e.g., legal status and gender), whence other subjects are just mentioned in one paragraph. Most chapters and some subchapters start with a shortlist of the content which helps the reader to identify the main points within the chapter. Unfortunately, this has not been done consequently.

In Chapter 1, the Introduction, the authors list the basic terminology and introduce their sample size which is rather large with more than 6,000 people since August 2002. In an overview, the authors provide some historical background to the migration phenomenon, to demographic developments, and to economic factors. In fact, “The actual total migration from Tajikistan far exceeds official figures” and has started extensively during the war. Although migrant go to various places, according to the authors’ study 84% choose Russia as their destination, wherein big cities act as strongest magnets. Despite this enormous flow of migration, the authors claim that “Russian labour markets remain unaffected by migration pressure even in regions saturated with migrants (p.25).”

Chapter 2 deals with the Profile of Tajik Migrant Workers. This chapter is marked by short paragraphs touching upon various topics like cultural specificities, gender issues, education, the migrants’ household, etc., without elaborating or engaging with those subjects. Chapter 3 discusses the Types of Labour Migration. Migrants do all possible jobs, sometimes less, sometimes more difficult, and more or less well paid. The chapter is enriched by numerous interviews that underline the statistical outcome. This chapter is certainly one of the strongest in terms of qualitative material, and it reveals the authors’ strength in migration studies that lie in identifying the various types and strategies of migrants (hired workers, construction workers, shuttle migrants).

Chapter 4 refers to Labour Migration Networks. In line with Russian ethnographic literature on Tajik people, the authors assume that the kinship unit avlod is not only the strongest, but the only network which matters to migrants, although family backing turns up to be crucial only 21% claim to have found work through relatives (p.63). This overstating of kinship hinders the authors to investigate various other relations such as friendships and classmates, which make 45% percent of those who help migrants. However the chapter has many other interesting aspects such as the surprisingly small relevance governmental structure plays in providing jobs (8%). Chapter 5: although legal aspects have been treated in various chapters, the authors rightly devote a separate chapter to Migration Laws in Receiving Countries. This chapter oscillates between legal statements, statistics, and emotional discourses in an interesting combination.

Chapter 6, the Vulnerability to Abuse and Exploitation of migrant workers, is a qualitative elaboration of the peril path of migrants from, to, and at their destination. Troubles await migrants everywhere, at the local police station, at governmental institutions, as well as in between migrants and criminal groups. Migrants seem minimally protected and maximally exposed to violence, conflicts and insecurity. Chapter 7 adds to the vulnerability perspective some aspects concerning the Health Conditions of Migrant Workers. Chapter 8, Economic Impacts of Labour Migration, lists the different options and risks to transfer or send money back home. Migrants face considerably difficulties in transferring a maximum of the sum earned to their relatives back home. In addition, the authors provide some statistics on the use of the remittances back in Tajikistan which are used primarily to realise rites of passage and improve their family’s financial position.

Chapter 9 once again uses the avlod as departure to identify the Social Impacts of Labour Migration. The use of kinship and household is rather unclear but, together with a discussion on gender and sexual behaviour, this chapter provides an example of the complexity of migration processes and demonstrates that the many links that influence migration and the community back home deserve a separate study. In Chapter 10 the authors have tempted to predict the Future of Labour Migration from Tajikistan. With right, the authors are careful in depicting future scenarios considering the various dynamics that influence the processes. Chapter 12 consists of a short list of Policy Recommendations which are kept brief and general.

The study clearly focuses on the push factors and on the vulnerability of Tajik migrants, with precious insides in the internal organisation of different migration types. However, at the end of the reading the question remains as to why so many people opt for such a peril path which seems to be so little efficient. The answer is hidden at only very few places overshadowed by the vulnerability perception but worth mentioning. We get told on p. 35 that 57% of migrants would not return to their former job if the enterprise started again, showing that obviously “more than half the migrants had chosen labour migration as their basic life strategy.” It is only on p. 116 that the next passage reveals that, in fact, 60.6% of the migrations are satisfied with the migrant way of life and that they believe to have been successful. Scientific literature has dealt with this ‘migration paradox’, i.e., how migrants transform the difficult condition during their migration journey into a status increase back home. Hence, the choice of the authors to concentrate on vulnerability of migrants relates certainly to the institution under which name the study was realised. The richness of the data that the authors have managed to collect makes the study a good source for future researchers who wish to engage with migration in Tajikistan and who might chose to discuss the Tajik case within a larger discourse on migration.

Sophie Roche, Max-Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Salle
CER: II-6.4.E-530