The Uzbek authorities replenish the treasury with what is commandeered from the people working in Russia
President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov is out to tax "uncontrolled immigration". Resolution of the government "On registration of the citizens seeking employment abroad" imposes customs dues on Gastarbeiters. The authorities of the formally autonomous Karakalpakia (northern part of Uzbekistan) seek to get everyone back from abroad - both illegal immigrants and law-abiding citizens.
Uzbek immigrants are upset. They suspect that registration will mean another financial strain. Moreover, the state budget is not going to be the only "recipient". The State Customs Committee is supposed to see to implementation of the government resolution and everyone in Uzbekistan knows that customs officers never object to having their palms greased.
The Statistics State Committee and Statistics Customs Committee will keep the tabs on everyone leaving the country and make quarterly reports. The Foreign Ministry in the meantime is expected to keep an eye on the Uzbeks abroad. Ministries of labor and social services and economics will issue "work abroad permits". The matter concerns an official duty.
Regional authorities are happy to demonstrate their zeal. Uznews.net reports that the government of the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakia is out to organize the return of 200,000 citizens from abroad. Conferences of representatives of the local power structures, offices of the Prosecutor General's Office, Interior Ministry, and National Security Service took place in district centers Chimbai and Biruni. They discussed the possibility of tracing labor immigrants to wherever they found jobs abroad and getting them back. Exactly how the authorities intend to accomplish it is anybody's guess.
The Uzbeks usually seek employment in Kazakhstan and Russia. According to the data compiled by the Russian Federal Service of Immigration, there were 102,658 officially registered labor immigrants and about 1.5 million illegal immigrants from Uzbekistan in Russia in 2006. Ferghana.Ru Chief Editor Daniil Kislov believes that what the Uzbek authorities are after is "legalization" of the sums Gastarbeiters send from abroad. "There is the budget deficit to consider, and the authorities hope to replenish the treasury at labor immigrants' expense," the expert said. According to Kislov, Uzbeks working in Russia send $250 million a year to their families via banks and much more than that illegally (very many Uzbeks distrust the banking system, correctly assuming that banks alert the authorities). As things stand, these sums are tax-free but it may change soon when the Uzbek authorities decide that they want labor immigrants to share their income. As for the idea of forcing people to go back, specialists entertain considerable doubts as regards it. "First, the authorities lack the technical ability," Kislov shrugged. "Second, they themselves benefit from labor immigration because the Uzbeks do send money home."
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Novye Izvestia, May 23, 2007, p. 4