Engaging with Labour Migrants: Emigration Policy in Tajikistan
Tajikistan is one of the main migrant origin countries in the post-Soviet space, with about one million labour migrants living and working in Russia. The country also represents one of the most remittance-dependent economies in the world. By exploring how and why the Tajik government has been seeing and engaging with labour migrants since 1991, this article analyses the development of emigration policy in this country. In doing so, the article proposes to de-reify the state and account for complex policy processes, with many actors directly and indirectly involved in both policy-making and implementation. Four aspects are analysed: shifts occurring in emigration policy-making over time and under the influence of different domestic actors; the actual assistance offered to labour migrants; the impact of Russia as the main host country; and the influence of international organisations in the context of the nascent global migration governance. This complex environment explains why over time Tajikistan’s emigration policy moved from a laissez-faire phase, through a proactive, then a “messy”, to a reactive one; why the Tajik authorities have followed often contradictory pathways of (non)involvement with labour migrants; and why there is a distinction between declared policies and informal practices performed by the state.