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Voluntary bondage

Panorama Shymkent, 23/06/2006
E. Berdigalieva

Voluntary bondage

   There is a new group of rich in Shymkent, which has led to a hot time for construction in the area. There is a multistory house at 90A Baitursynov Street, adjacent to a private house under construction on Kunayev Ave. One would never know because of their high fences and the migrant workers arriving who have yet to obtain any land themselves and have hastily constructed a makeshift toilet…
   Apartments are tall and it is constantly windy, so one can imagine what sounds and scents come through the windows. There are large, equipped rows of sanitary apartments, but workers are not allowed access to these places. The experience of these labor migrants from neighboring countries often entails such denials and others which are not compatible with upholding human dignity. At the same time, the attitudes of their plights by neighbors and fellow citizens are worse…
   Labor migration from Uzbekistan intensified in the late 1990s. Persistent economic difficulties, high unemployment, and the hope for better earnings abroad prompted many Uzbek citizens to seek work in neighboring countries, like Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.
   Every year our organization works with at least 100 people, mostly seasonal workers from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Data shows that most working here are working illegally, which makes them dependent on their unscrupulous employers. As a result there is a widespread violation of the rights of migrant workers, says M. Dzhakupov, a lawyer at the Legal Center for Women's Initiatives "Sana Sezim".
   Recently, on the phone hotline at "Sana Sezim" two Uzbek citizens, M. Zafar and Akram (names changed), called to complain about an individual entrepreneur, R. Zhandosa, who had not paid their salaries that had been previously, mutually agreed upon. After about two months, when all the conditions of their contract had been fulfilled, they went to R. Zhandosa for their labor remuneration. He seemed fair at first, saying, "The money will be paid, but wait a week." They waited, but he still did not give it to them. He said again, "Wait, or just do not get it."
   Zafar and Akrom called the Legal Center for Women's Initiatives "Sana Sezim" after they saw an announcement in the newspaper for free legal council. They were very concerned over the fate of their loved ones at home, because they had expectations of them as the breadwinners.
   After listening to the builders, staff at "Sana Sezim" helped them make a claim statement to hand over to the court.
   "There is truth on the side of the migrants, and the court must defend their rights," said M. Dzhakupov.
   This type of situation that threatens the safety and violates human rights is not the only one that occurs with the guest workers, migrant workers, and refugees. "Do they invite this bondage on themselves?" wonders a large segment of the population.
   Regardless, Kazakhstan, which is eager to become one of the 50 most competitive countries in the world, should be an example of civilized and legal forms of interaction with labor migrants. Initiative "Do not live in the Middle Ages", reminds these people not to ignore the basic norms of human morality in dealing with anyone.
   Call the Legal Center for Women's Initiatives "Sana Sezim" at 56-27-32 for any questions relating to labor migration.