After Terrorist Attack in Russia, Tajik Migrants Endure a Crackdown

Muhammad said he had found a better life in Russia. After emigrating from Tajikistan last fall, he began driving delivery vans in Siberia, enrolled his children in a local school, applied for a Russian passport and started planning to buy an apartment with the savings from his much higher salary.

The arrest of a group of Tajik citizens accused of carrying out the attack that killed 145 people at a Moscow concert hall last month has upended those plans, filling Muhammad with fear of being swept up in the ensuing crackdown on the Central Asian migrants who prop up Russia’s economy.

The attack, he said, has erased all the efforts his family made to fit into society. In a phone interview from the city of Novosibirsk, he added that he would move back to Tajikistan if the police or nationalist radicals were to target him.

“I’ll only have a hunk of bread, but at least I’ll be in my homeland, living without fear that someone will bang on my door,” said Muhammad, whose last name, like those of other migrants quoted in this story, is being withheld to protect them against possible retaliation.

The Russian police have responded to the terrorist attack, the most lethal in the country in decades, by raiding thousands of construction sites, dormitories, cafes and warehouses that employ and cater to migrants. Russian courts have deported thousands of foreigners after quick hearings on alleged immigration violations. And Russian officials have proposed new measures to restrict immigration.

The official crackdown has been accompanied by a spike in xenophobic attacks across Russia, according to local news media and rights groups, which have documented beatings, verbal abuse and racist graffiti directed against migrants.

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