Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Central Asia: May '07

Special report into migrant worker deaths in Russia is republished locally and internationally more than 30 times.
The investigative report “The Cost of Dying Abroad for Central Asians” was probably the first attempt of its kind in the region to tell the stories of those who struggle with financial and psychological burden of bringing home bodies of migrant workers who died in Russia.

The local press tends to shy away from the sensitive topic apart from occasional news items on the subject. IWPR journalists looked at the issue from a regional perspective telling it as a problem common for all three Central Asian countries, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan who provide the biggest number of migrant workers who travel to Russia in search of work.

The interest in the topic was evident from the number of republications in the local and international press. Since its publication on May 28, it was republished more than 30 times.

Working on the report gave IWPR journalists valuable experience of dealing with a highly sensitive topic. Their work involved interviewing the grieving relatives of those who left for Russia searching for better opportunities but in doing so lost their lives, many of them in industrial accidents. It was not easy for the IWPR team to approach the families and ask them to relive their sad experiences.

Getting information from government sources was difficult because officials are reluctant to talk about the issue. It took some time before the Tajik authorities agreed to reveal how officials work with the Russian government to transport dead migrants’ bodies home. Our Kyrgyz journalist encountered similar problems. Getting an official view in Uzbekistan was the hardest.

But the effort was worthwhile as the relatives of those who’ve died in Russia and NGO representatives were grateful to the IWPR team for highlighting the tragic plight of migrant workers and raising public debate about the issue. The head of the Kyrgyz NGO Akikat, Jolu Bubuaisha Arstanbekova, said that rights activists need help from the media to raise awareness about problems encountered by Central Asians in Russia.

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