Russia to deport Tajik immigrants over jailed pilot case

Around 300 Tajik citizens will be deported from Russia in response to the jailing of a Russian pilot in Tajikistan.

“We have started working on the issue, and extradition will occur in days,” said Federal Migration Service Director, Konstantin Romodanovsky.

Once expelled, the Tajik citizens will not have the right to return to Russia for five years. The media reported that Tajik migrants had already had problems getting work permits. Around 1.3-1.7 million Tajiks are currently working in Russia.

The measure follows a harsh 8.5-year sentence handed down to Russian pilot Vladimir Sadovnichy by a Tajik court on November 8. The court found Sadovnichy, who operated humanitarian flights to Afghanistan, guilty of smuggling, illegally crossing the border into Tajikistan, and violation of flight rules.

The pilot insists that he had only made a forced landing on Tajikistan’s territory, as the plane was short of fuel, while the alleged contraband was his ordinary cargo – a disassembled aircraft engine.

The Russian authorities were outraged by the verdict, saying it was politically motivated. The head of Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party suggested that the real purpose of the Tajik authorities was to seize the aircraft that would later be used for drug trafficking.

The Russian ambassador to Tajikistan was called to Moscow for brief consultations.

Russia’s immigrant rights watchdog, the Migrants’ Federation, insists that the Migration Service’s decision to refuse Tajik citizens work permits is unjust.

“This is a flagrant violation of international human rights,” the watchdog’s president, Madzhunder Muhammad Amin, told Interfax. “We support attempts to defend the pilot, but what do migrant workers have to do with this? Why should they be humiliated and denied work permits in Russia?”

The media, meanwhile, are speculating about an “anti-Tajik campaign” the authorities are allegedly using to “unite” Russians ahead of forthcoming Duma elections.

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