The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is helping the voluntary return home of hundreds of Tajik migrants stranded at the Kazakhstan/Uzbekistan border due to restrictions inflicted in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
The group of 650 people is mainly migrant workers and includes women, children, and students. On Friday afternoon they were preparing to board buses funded by International Organization for Migration to make the journey from the border crossing at Zhibek Zholi, through Uzbekistan, to Khojand in Tajikistan.
They are just some of the tens of thousands of migrant workers in Central Asia who have lost their works due to the pandemic. Many have come from the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, and even further afield. They are typically working in low-paid jobs with little or no job security. Over a quarter of the returning migrants are between 15 and 24 years of age including 100 Tajik students from Kazakh universities. 15% of the group are women and girls.
While most of the migrants have only been expecting a few days to get across the border, some have been there for weeks, with little or no shelter and sanitation.
“We have been providing food, water, and hygiene items for the migrants over the past few days while the logistics and paperwork were being organized,” stated Sanjarbek Toshbaev, IOM’s head of office in Uzbekistan.
The 180 km journey will take four hours and is being closely coordinated with the three governments. IOM has provided food, water, and hygiene items for the migrants over the past few days while the logistics and paperwork were being organized.
“We recognize and support measures in place to contain the spreading of COVID-19, but we also stress the right of migrants to return to their places of origin”, said IOM’s Toshbaev. “We need to work to find ways to get more stranded migrants home.”
The governments of the United States and Norway have provided funds, with UNICEF also contributing.