Fire Kills Migrant Workers in Russia

The search for a better future and the means to support their families in Kyrgyzstan ended tragically for 14 migrant workers Saturday, August 27, in Moscow, when their printing plant caught fire. All of the victims were young women, including two 17-year-old girls, according to reports. Three Russian workers also died.

Kyrgyzstan, migrant workers, Solidarity Center, job safety and health

One of two young Kyrgyz women killed in a Moscow factory fire. Credit: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Burials for the workers were held August 31, in towns around Kyrgyzstan.

The mother of a 21-year-old lost in the fire told Radio Free Europe, “With no work here, the Kyrgyz have to leave.”

The majority of Kyrgyz who leave their country to find work—estimated at about 500,000—head for Russia. There they often face discrimination, exploitation and unsafe working conditions. In the last five years, an estimated 1,500 Kyrgyz migrants to Russia died in workplace and other incidents.

“The stories of the victims are the same: unemployment, poverty, migration,” says Lola Abdukadyrova, Solidarity Center program coordinator in Kyrgyzstan. “They hoped to gain enough money to help to their families.”

Over the last year, more than 1,000 people went through the pre-departure trainings for the migrants conducted by the Solidarity Center in all regions of Kyrgyzstan. They were briefed about their rights and responsibilities while staying in the Russian Federation, with special attention to the legal aspects of employment. Workers were urged to finalize individual employment contracts, in particular, during the trainings. In addition, the Garment, Metallurgy and Mining, Transport and Retail Workers’ Unions actively supported an informational campaign to support migrant workers, putting up posters and installing informational boards in the biggest markets, bus stations and airports across the republic.