COVID-19 Cases

Russia's stranded migrants lose jobs, rely on handouts and peers for food

Image:- migrants lose jobs, rely on handouts and peers for food

Even before the coronavirus lockdown in Moscow, Ibragim Artykov, a Tajikistani builder, had been down on his luck. He had four jobs over two months and his employers either underpaid him or disappeared in all of them without paying him for anything.

Now the 32-year-old, one of Russia's 10 million labor migrants, can not find a job at all due to the four-week-old coronavirus lockdown.

When it will be eased, there's no official word on it, and Artykov can't go home to wait for it as all flights are grounded up.

"We don't have a home, no car, no money stash so we're just surviving somehow. One person is lending money, another is helping with food, whatever they can, "he said outside a rented apartment, where he stays with friends.

"We can not live on water and oxygen and we must survive in some way. I don't think there's anything more terrifying than starving to death. "President Vladimir Putin said the epidemic is still at its peak. Moscow suspended all work except that it deemed essential to slow the spread of the virus.

That means that 2,2 million migrants legally registered to work in Moscow and its surroundings alone have lost jobs in construction and other sectors, said Moscow-based migration expert Valentina Chupik.

The actual figure is likely to be much higher, as millions of economic migrants - many from poor Central Asian republics whose economies rely on them to send some of their wages home - work in the grey economy where employers can easily exploit or cheat.

Russia's government has been under fire by some Kremlin critics for failing to provide sufficient economic support to the crisis-hit citizens and businesses. Migrants are not eligible to receive State aid.

Some officials have been pushing for emergency measures entitling them to benefit. Russian media outlets have warned about rising crime.

Artykov believes that the government should either allow migrants to leave Russia en masse or financially assist them while the lockdown is going on, although he was skeptical that would happen.

"The third option is death and no one wants it." Migrant communities and charities have organized emergency aid for families of hard-working migrants.

Khabibullov Qurbonov, 32, raised 900,000 roubles ($12,170) on his blog and went to the market to buy rice, flour, potato and other staples he distributed to hundreds of families using a taxi service offering free use of his cars.

Other charities distribute food too.

"We are distributing food today to migrant families who were stuck in Russia without being able to get home or earn their bread," said Irina Konsol, director of the charity Dom Dobroty. "Those people starve to death."