Every day, a group of people hold posters written in capital letters at the labor market in Istanbul. “I am looking for a job,” the poster may read. Among them are many Syrians, Afghans, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Georgians and Azerbaijanis.
Ayat Hasanov, a 22-year-old Georgian resident of Qachagan village in Marneuli district, who cannot find work in Georgia, is one of the people seeking a daily job in the labor market at Istanbul. Almost all these workers are uninsured and working illegally without contracts. Some live in cramped cellars.
He’s married without children, but tries to support his family financially. He has been traveling to Istanbul and back for over a year.
“Sometimes from morning until night we are waiting for business owners who will hire us,” Hasanov said. “They pick up people they want. We are like modern-day slaves.”
He said the money earned in Turkey is low, but better than being unemployed.
“It is very difficult to find a job in Georgia,” he said. “We are forced to work in Turkey. 90 percent of our village has gone to seek a job in Turkey with the hope of earning some money to support his family.
“Nobody would leave own country if there would be any work. But we have no choice but to do it. Without Turkey, living in Marneuli would be an even worse situation.”
According to the latest data of the Turkey Ministry of Labour and Social Security, there were 4,450 Georgian citizens working in the country in 2016, the second most after Syrians. According to the ministry, there were 8,524 Georgians working in Turkey in 2015.
But is no reliable data on the thousands of illegal employees working in Turkey.
Fariz Mansurov, 24, said that he failed to find a permanent job in Turkey, and one time was deceived by a boss.
Mansurov is single and tried to survive in Georgia selling fruits and vegetables he grew. But he says cheap imported products lowered prices and he couldn’t make a living.
When he is in Turkey, he spends about $2-3 a day for food and $85 a month for housing. He has a bank loan to pay off in Georgia.
He had a construction job in Turkey for about six weeks.
“Our boss didn’t give us our salary,” he said. “I spent money for accommodation and food. And I had to come back with little money.
“It is hard to find a job here. If you are poor, you have to leave Georgia to seek a job in Azerbaijan, Russia or Turkey.”
Vahid Mammadov, an 82-year-old man sitting in a Marneuli tea house, said both of his children are in Moscow. He said if they didn’t send money to him he wouldn’t survive on his pension.
“My sons are working as taxi drivers,” he said. “They moved there 20 years ago. My wife and I are old. One daughter-in-law is staying with us and taking care of us. Medicines and everything are expensive for us.
“Earlier people were going to Azerbaijan to work. But now there is (currency) devaluation in Azerbaijan. And after the problems with Russia, people prefer to go to Turkey. Our young people cannot go to European countries because of the language barrier. Most Azerbaijanis don′t know English and they need extra money to go to Europe.”
The Georgian government doesn’t collect information on the country of destination for emigrants. Russia deported more than 7,000 Georgian citizens in 2006-2007 alone. In 2016, Russia agreed to pay 70,000 euros compensation to the families who had a Georgian citizen deported from Russia.
Gulnaz Baramova, 48, says her husband first went to Russia 10 years ago. He was one of the people who received compensation from the Russian government. According to Baramova, he kept all the money and went back to Russia.
She was married at age 16, although there was never an official document. Her pension is only about $US70 a month. She takes care of her father while her brothers are all trying to work back in Azerbaijan. She tries to help her daughter, who she says is married to a drug addict and has four children.
She tries to survive on the fruits and vegetables she grows and chickens and cows she raises.
“My husband went to Russia and he didn’t come back,” she said. “He sold our house last year. Now I live with my father in my brother’s house.”
Gulnaz′s son couldn′t find a job either and has left Georgia.
“Because of unemployement, our family scattered,” she said. “There are so many families which have scattered because of financial difficulties.”