Uzbekistan to track its citizens working abroad

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Uzbekistan, a former Soviet republic, has a new system in place designed to track their citizens working abroad. A new government decree will increase the amount of information the country has about its citizens who migrate to other countries in search of employment.

The Statistical Agency and Customs Committee have been instructed to issue quarterly reports on the numbers of citizens moving abroad and their reason for leaving. Uzbek consulates abroad will also monitor their citizen's movements.

Citizens wishing to work abroad will be required to fill out a revised form with details on their whereabouts and prospective employment. In addition, the fee (approximately $40 USD) for obtaining a permit to work abroad will be reduced and the permit will be easier to obtain.

Most Uzbeks who take the legal route by obtaining the permit migrate to non-neighboring countries such as South Korea. Those who migrate to Russia or other neighboring Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS, an alliance of eleven former Soviet Republics) usually leave the country "illegally" by skipping the complicated red tape.

Critics of the new procedures believe that the government is trying to drum up more revenue by persuading the many "illegal emigrants" to obtain the permit, as well as increase political control over their citizens.

"I think the government's real aim is primarily economic, and has to do with the fact that the incomes of these citizens are invisible," said Bakhtyor Isabek, a political scientist.

A former head of the Democratic Initiative Centre in Tashkent, Iskandar Khudoiberganov, believes that many migrants would simply revoke their citizenship if the government started monitoring them and demanding taxes from their revenue.

"We are talking about a totalitarian system which exerts absolute control, and where even the mahallah [a very old Uzbek social institution] committee knows who to catch, not to mention the official agencies."

It's estimated that there are three million migrant Uzbek workers, most of them in Russia.


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