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Sep 1, 2021
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Is it necessary to introduce a visa regime for residents of Central Asia

Is it necessary to introduce a visa regime for residents of Central Asia

Photo: AP / TASS

Russia has proposed to introduce a temporary visa regime with the Central Asian states. The initiative was voiced during the pre-election debate on the Russia 24 TV channel from one of the candidates for the State Duma of the Russian Federation Oleg Pakholkov

And – understandably – it is connected with the latest changes in Afghanistan, where representatives of the Islamist Taliban movement came to power *.

According to the politician, today an average of 10 million Afghans become refugees who leave the country. And several million of them will come to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, our former Soviet republics.

However, these countries, he believes, will not be able to cope with such an influx of refugees. As a result, several million hungry migrants could become “A wonderful breeding ground for terrorism”… In addition, these people have the opportunity to obtain citizenship of these countries, after which the road to Russia is actually open for them.

In order to avoid such a development of the situation, Pakholkov proposed to immediately introduce a temporary visa regime with the Central Asian states. At the same time, he speaks of a kind of “soft” regime, since after all these are “friendly states to us.” But he warns that if this is not done now, then soon crowds of terrorists will go to our territory with “allied” passports.

In fact, a variety of politicians have come forward with proposals to toughen entry into Russia from Central Asian countries. And for a long time.

Their arguments: the visa regime will normalize the situation with migration, reduce crime, as well as the flow of drugs and propaganda of radical Islam to our country.

At the moment, we recall that Russia has a visa-free regime with such states of the region as Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, of which the latter two directly border on troubled Afghanistan.

Based on this state of affairs, our authorities, I would like to believe, are aware of the threats.

In any case, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin not only recently acknowledged that the threats posed by the Taliban, “Absolutely real”… But he also named them – this is the escalation of conflicts with neighboring countries, the growth of drug trafficking and illegal emigration.

According to the Russian leader, there is a danger that terrorists and other groups that have taken refuge in Afghanistan “They use the chaos that our Western colleagues left behind in this country,” and will begin to escalate in neighboring countries.

“This is a direct threat to our country, our allies”– Putin explained.

At the same time, he stressed that Russia will not interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, and even more so will not involve its armed forces in the conflict. “All against all”

According to the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Central Asia Semyon Bagdasarov, Moscow understands the situation and behaves correctly (the words of the expert are quoted by the resource Smimm.ru).

At the same time, he also believes that Russia should tighten the visa regime with the Central Asian republics. Since it is not difficult to acquire a passport of the same Tajikistan, terrorists can also use this method of entering the territory of the Russian Federation.

Meanwhile, we can recall other examples from our recent history. In Chechnya, as you know, citizens of many foreign countries, including Yemen, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, fought on the side of the militants, with whom we had and still have a visa regime. However, this then did not become a barrier to the spread of terrorist activity against Russia.

SP asked to comment on the situation renowned specialist in Central Asia and the Middle East, political scientist Azhdar Kurtov:

– There are no 10 million refugees from Afghanistan, these are fictions. Even when the Taliban first came to power, the number of refugees was estimated at about two million. But they mostly fled not to the neighboring former republics of the USSR. And they fled to countries more comfortable for them, closer in lifestyle, in religion – these are Iran and Pakistan.

This is where the main streams were directed. And, judging by media reports, this situation is now repeating itself. They run exactly there. It’s easier to run there, and it’s easier to adapt on the spot.

Then, as far as is known, none of the Central Asian republics is going to accept large volumes of migrants. It is unprofitable for them and, frankly, it is like death. After all, there are a lot of their own problems.

First, there is poverty. These republics are not so rich, especially Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. This is a shortage of resources very often necessary for their own citizens. Resources such as water. That is why they constantly have water conflicts with each other – between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

In addition, no one is going, let’s say, to re-export even those migrants who, possibly, in isolated cases, will penetrate these republics. After all, it’s one thing to accept and fully adapt at home. And it is completely different to create temporary camps with the hope that later these people will want to return to their homeland, or they will go somewhere else to other states – be it Russia or the United States … etc.

That is, in my opinion, there is no obvious threat here. But there are other risks associated with the Central Asian region.

“SP”: – What?

– It’s no secret that a significant part of the so-called guest workers are from this region. There are not enough jobs there, and, as it were, from the point of view of the leadership of these countries, it is good for them when their own citizens move to work in the same Russian Federation. And, of course, the leaders of these countries will not be delighted if the situation escalates and they have to accept millions of Afghans fleeing to them.

I don’t think this will happen. In my opinion, these are some kind of phobias that are now being exploited in connection with the pre-election situation.

Yes, our border is not the same as it was during the Soviet Union. As a matter of fact, a significant part of the Russian-Kazakh border (we only border directly with Kazakhstan from all the republics of Central Asia) is not a plowed control strip and some kind of border structures with surveillance.

But this is understandable. Kazakhstan and I are members of several of the same regional organizations – the CIS, the CSTO, the SCO, the Eurasian Economic Union.

And here, in general, our joint existence (at least in recent years), although not without some problems, presupposes, on the contrary, the destruction of borders. The maximum reduction of those administrative obstacles that impede the movement of both goods – and that is what, say, the main activity of both the SCO and the EEC is aimed at, as well as the movement of capital and labor.

But the labor force of its own citizens of states who are members of these associations, not migrants.

With illegal migrants in all countries there are ways of administrative struggle. And these methods may well be applied by the authorities of the Central Asian states.

Finally, I cannot but say that no one is particularly eager to join the Russian Federation from those peoples who have lived and are still living in Afghanistan.

“SP”: – Why?

– Well, firstly, most of them are deeply religious people, and Russia is still a country with a significant part of the Muslim population, but we mostly have a different Islam.

He is, shall we say, more tolerant than the one that is widespread in Afghanistan. In our country, women of none of the Muslim nations wear dress covering their faces, as in Afghanistan.

Again, we do not have such a good history of relationships with migrants from Afghanistan.

Let me remind you that when the Soviet Union was leaving Afghanistan, there was also a stream – those whom we raised as our allies fled in a socialist spirit. These are generals, teachers, intelligentsia …

But we didn’t take them all that well.

I remember those years in the Sevastopol Hotel in the south of Moscow, inhabited by a huge Afghan diaspora. They were engaged in some kind of petty trade etc.

And when the government fell Najibullah, many of the Afghans asked to go to Russia, but Russia did not give them a visa. Unfortunately, we did not give a visa even to the first Afghan cosmonaut, Hero of the Soviet Union (his name Abdul Ahad MomandEd.).

So Afghans (or some of them) remember this. And they are unlikely to strive to the north.

They have the opportunity to emigrate to countries that are more comfortable, as I said, in their habitat, such as Iran, and through it somewhere to Europe. Or to Pakistan, where not just their fellow believers live, but their fellow tribesmen – I mean the Pashtuns.

“SP”: – But recently, ISIS fighters have also become more active in Afghanistan **. Are they a threat to us in this chaos?

– Of course, some isolated cases of penetration of extremists are possible. But let’s be objective. Now active, large-scale military operations in Syria are more or less completed. Some remnants of anti-government groups did not lay down their arms.

But, remember, when active hostilities were still waged, there was a lot of talk that the war would end, and all these bandits who came to Syria to fight on the side of ISIS from the territory of Russia and other neighboring countries, will return home and continue their then terrorist activities.

But did this happen – on a massive scale, of course? Yes, there were isolated cases. The security services of Russia and other Central Asian states are not asleep. They work, they catch these people.

But we know that there were no large-scale terrorist attacks – by this very category of people. Why do we think there will be large-scale terrorist attacks by Afghans?

There are no sufficiently serious reasons for this. That’s what the security service is for, to be on the alert and monitor this situation.

Moreover, those who fought in Syria, immigrants from, say, the Russian North Caucasus, are much more difficult to identify when returning to our country than those Afghans who, for the most part, do not know Russian and look very different from other peoples of Russia. Therefore, here the security services of our countries seem to have more trump cards.


* “Taliban” is a terrorist organization banned on the territory of the Russian Federation by the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation

** “Islamic State” (ISIS, IS) is a terrorist organization banned on the territory of the Russian Federation by the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

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