Russia Begins Deporting Tajik Migrants

Posted November 15th, 2011 at 1:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Russia has started deporting Tajik migrants in what appears to be retaliation for prison terms handed down to a Russian pilot and his Estonian colleague after they landed their aircraft in the Central Asian nation.

Russian immigration officials announced the deportation plan, one week after Tajik authorities sentenced the two pilots to eight-and-a-half years in prison on smuggling and illegal border-crossing charges.

The pilots had stopped to refuel in Tajikistan on a flight between Russia and Afghanistan. Russian officials say the reasons behind the charges remain unclear.

Around 300 Tajik migrants have been detained recently, and some were scheduled to be deported as early as Tuesday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev denied the deportation of Tajik migrants is connected with the sentencing of the pilots, but indicated there could be more expulsions. Russian officials say the deportations are in line with Russian law.

Tajikistan's economy depends heavily on the money earned by its workers in Russia, and continued deportations could leave the workers unable to feed their families.