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.
Shamil*, a 38-year-old man from Azerbaijan travelled to Russia to earn more money and increase his standard of living. He found work as a loader at a local market. He has been subjected to fraud, threats, incomplete payment and labour bondage.
I came from Azerbaijan, Kurdamir. I have higher education as a graduate of the Baku Institute of oil and gas. I didn’t work in this field. I recently worked as a trainer at a sports centre. I am married with three children. Before leaving for Russia, my financial situation was satisfactory - I had enough money for the essentials. I constantly thought about how to make more money. As my wife does not work, it is difficult to cope with all financial eventualities. It depressed me greatly. I came to Russia in order to increase my standard of living, to gain money. I wanted to make sure that my family had everything it needed and could make some savings. I arrived in January 2003. I read a recruitment announcement in a newspaper. I decided to give it a go. For US$135 an intermediary promised to take me to Russia and place me in a job. I borrowed money at a rate of interest from friends to pay for his services. The intermediary did not keep his promise to place me in a job. I asked for a job at several places. Everywhere refused me. Then I got a contract, but a month and a half later I was dismissed without grounds or explanation. I looked for any other job. I fixed up a job as a loader at the local market.
Yes [we were under pressure]. We unload on a fixed schedule. If you don’t manage to complete the work in time the pay is less. The work turned out to be physically demanding, even for me. My health became worse, I felt giddy and developed a pain in my back. But I can see no sense in stopping working. I have my documents. But in order to stop me leaving, I have to leave 70 per cent of my wages with the employer. I have no days off, and seldom ask for leave. On average I work 10 hours a day, it depends on the volume of goods to be unloaded, the weather, the clients. I often take material to building sites. For this work I receive food and cigarettes. I receive 30 per cent of my wage in cash, which isn’t reflected in a register. I can leave my employer, but I might be deprived of 70 per cent of the money I have accumulated. The average wage is about 3’100 roubles. There is no paid vacation or sick leave. A written agreement with the employer doesn’t exist. Our employer is Armenian. He is constantly trying to threaten us, keep under control, make us work more and quicker. If it comes to a conflict force might be involved. Bearing this in mind one has to agree to work overtime without complaint. I have no registration. I do not believe in laws or rules - nobody respects them. I have no official permission to work - it is waste of time and money. I do not know of any new laws, they don’t interest me. But I would like migrants to be treated better in Russia and their rights to be protected. I’d like to acquire Russian citizenship for myself and my family and have a good job.
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’