There are an estimated 794,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Russia (GSI 2018). Forced labour remains the predominant form of human trafficking in the country. Labour trafficking has been reported in the construction, manufacturing, logging, textile, and maritime industries, as well as in sawmills, agriculture, sheep farms, grocery and retail shops, restaurants, waste sorting, street sweeping, domestic service, and forced begging. Many migrant workers experience exploitative labour conditions characteristic of trafficking cases, such as withholding of identity documents, non-payment for services rendered, physical abuse, lack of safety measures, or extremely poor living conditions.
Erasyl*, a 46-year-old man from Kazakhstan travelled to Russia to get money for his son’s education. He paid a recruiter to find him work. Upon arrival Erasyl had his passport confiscated and he was forced to work as a bricklayer to pay off the debt incurred from the recruiter.
I came from the village of Bastan (Kazakhstan). I have secondary technical education in communication. I have never worked using my profession. I have had occasional work. My last work was as a watchman at a granary. I am a widower with three children. I came to Russia in 1997 in order to gain money for the higher education of my eldest son. I learnt from newspapers about work in Russia, an acquaintance recommended an intermediary to me, who demanded US$200 for his services and persuaded me that I would earn enough in Russia. Six more people came with me. In Russia a person responsible for placing us in jobs was waiting for us. They sent us to work at different places. I never saw them any more. They took away my passport, allegedly for registration. I got it back after a year and eight months. The next day I began working. I build houses and cottages. I live “on site” - in a truck. We work without holidays, without a schedule, often at night. I work as a bricklayer but in addition I have to do a lot of other work. Earnings are on average about 2’500 Roubles, without a pay-slip, with goes partially towards my debt.
No, I am afraid even to think about it [changing my job]. I am not sure that another job wil bring more profit.
[My employer] seems to be a Greek. We seldom see him. Some others keep an eye on us. The situation is bad, as I am dependent, in debt to the employer I see no way out. I have neither registration, nor the permission to work. I have not received anything, and I am afraid to bear additional costs and have problems with the employer. But there were times when the police demanded money from me, as I had no passport with me. My plans for the future are to pay off my debts and return back without risking my life. Prior to arrival I felt enthusiastic about earning money in Russia, but upon arrival initially it was a disappointment, and then - depression and a feeling of hopelessness.
Narrative credit to International Labour Organization
Original narrative found in report ‘Forced Labour in the Russian Federation Today: Irregular Migration and Trafficking in Human Beings’