Surrounded by Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China, Tajikistan shares more than 4000 km of borders with its neighbours, most of which is located in very rural and mountainous areas. With a complex relationship to some bordering nations, an unstable security situation in border regions of Afghanistan as well as problems with cross-border trafficking in persons and drug-smuggling, it is very important for Tajikistan to adequately manage its borders.
The IOM mission in Tajikistan started its activity in the area of Border Management in 2002 and has since then successfully administered a variety of projects. The main project partner of the projects is the Border Forces of Tajikistan (BFT) and initiatives have been supported by the government of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Norway, and the European Union among others.
Graduation ceremony for newly examinated border guards outside the IOM built training centre for border guards in Dushanbe.
Mentioning some of the achievements made through the implementation of Border Management projects, the unit was behind a long due infrastructure improvement of the International Dushanbe Airport and the international border checkpoints located there. It also assisted the Tajik government with an upgrade of the visa system and the quality and design of travel documents. Further, IOM has been engaged in helping the BFT to strengthen the technical capacity of all the border checkpoints of the Tajik-Afghan state border through the provision of necessary new IT and document examination equipment.
Another focus for the unit are different types of initiatives carried out with the aim of facilitating a deepening of the collaboration between the border agencies of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. With the support of IOM, an important agreement on easing the mobility for Afghans living in border areas to access healthcare in Tajikistan has been signed as well as a new border guard Memorandum of Understanding and update of Standard Operating Procedures, which are significant steps forward in Tajik-Afghan border agency relations.
Training of Border Guard personnel
IOM Tajikistan has a long experience of assisting the BFT with their training of border guards. Border training centres currently used to train new border guards, located in Dushanbe, Khorog and Panj, have all been constructed by IOM, carefully planned to meet all specific needs including class rooms, IT-rooms, libraries and sleeping halls.
Starting from 2006, IOM started implementing projects related to the capacity building of Tajik males and females who have recently joined the BFT. Training curriculum on ‘Border and Immigration Control’ consisting of six manuals have been developed by IOM to be used during the three months long training courses of the new personnel of the BFT. In 2009, IOM launched a project of delivering joint trainings for Afghan and Tajik male personnel of the border structures of Tajikistan and Afghanistan, bearing in mind that an efficient management of the border can only be done through extensive hands-on cross-border cooperation out in the field. Since 2015, this type of cross-border trainings has also been held for Tajik and Afghan female border guards, creating an appreciated space for female border guard professionals to discuss common challenges they face and how to deal with them.
A group of 20 female border guards from Afghanistan and Tajikistan are participating in practical lessons as a part of a 10-day training course in Dushanbe on Border and Immigration Control.
A specialized training curriculum on “Humanitarian Border Management” has also been developed for Tajik Border Forces which were adopted into the national training support package for the border forces and is now widely used by them during national and international training operations. Currently, efforts are made to gender streamline the BFT as a whole which has entailed the development of another specialized training curriculum for the female border guards of Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The curriculum consists of gender related topics and the production of promotional material highlighting the important role women play in the border forces.
Community Stabilization and Emergencies
Tajikistan is a mountainous country prone to frequent natural disasters, such as earthquakes, mudslides, floods and avalanches. The geography of the country makes emergency preparedness and response challenging, with disasters often affecting high mountain areas and remote villages. Natural disasters continue to have a devastating impact on communities: taking lives; destroying homes and infrastructure; and disrupting livelihoods.
IOM’s presence in Tajikistan began with humanitarian assistance programmes during the Tajik Civil War of 1992-1997. This included transportation and reintegration assistance for internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees and former combatants. IOM was again active in 2001 during the Afghan refugee crisis in southern Tajikistan following the fall of the Taliban.
Today, IOM’s emergency preparedness and response activities are aimed at capacity building, coordination and relief. IOM established the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) for the Committee for Emergency Situations and Civil Defence (CoES) in Dushanbe to ensure robust disaster response coordination mechanisms.
IOM is also responsible for the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) sector in Tajikistan, co-chairing it with CoES. As such, IOM is responsible for the coordination of CCCM planning and response throughout the country. During emergencies, IOM provides coordination, technical missions, and capacity building related to displacement sites.
During previous earthquakes and mudslides in Tajikistan, IOM has also been engaged with shelter response, providing winterization support for IDPs and upgrading of shelters.
IOM’s work in the field of in community stabilization in Tajikistan is focused in various ways on fostering cohesion and building resilience among communities adversely affected by high levels of return migration, cross-border crime, and natural disasters. Tajikistan has undergone both a post-socialist and post-conflict transition, with major ruptures in society and the economy, many of which are still being felt today.
Close to one million Tajik citizens are migrant workers abroad, with the main destination being the Russian Federation. A lack of employment opportunities, particularly in rural areas, results in many people- predominantly men- seeking livelihoods outside of the country. The absence of men in rural areas has had long-term effects on the social fabric of Tajikistan and is made more complex by the large-scale return of migrant workers who are banned from re-entering Russia, a phenomenon ongoing since 2013. The labour market in Tajikistan cannot absorb the large number of people returning to already strained communities
Districts on the border with Afghanistan are among some of the hardest hit by the re-entry ban issue, as well as being affected by instability emanating from Afghanistan. In particular, this relates to the narcotics trade and associated violence, kidnappings and other types of cross-border crime. These instances have a damaging effect on cross-border relations and community cohesion.
Creating livelihood alternatives is a key part of IOM’s community stabilization work in Tajikistan and focuses on reintegrating returned migrants with re-entry bans, providing opportunities to youth, and supporting single female headed households of migrant families.
IOM provides in-kind grants to community members in districts bordering Afghanistan in both GBAO and Khatlon regions to start new enterprises. Many business ideas supported by IOM are for cross-border businesses, which help to stimulate trade and build relationships between Tajik and Afghan communities as well as reduce incentives for smuggling goods. Popular businesses which IOM has provided equipment and materials for include: livestock breeding; sewing workshops; carpet weaving; food conservation; bee-keeping ; carpentry; welding; cargo transportation; and car-repair. Since 2015, 210 businesses have been supported through in-kind grants.
In partnership with the Adult Training Centres of Tajikistan (part of the Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment) IOM has provided vocational training to over 800 people. Participants on the courses are primarily returned migrants, youth, and single female heads of households. The courses are officially certified by the Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment and have greatly improved the employment rates of vulnerable community members. The introduction of new skills into communities facing multiple challenges continues to have a stabilising effect. Types of courses offered include: fish-farming; textile weaving; ICT; welding; bee-keeping; baking; and accountancy.
Through cross-border community stabilization activities with Afghanistan, IOM conducts carpentry training for Afghan communities living in remote mountain areas using Tajik experts. Training has also been delivered to Afghan border communities on handicraft production, baking and welding. To further cross-border livelihood cooperation, IOM has also brought Afghan students from border areas to study in Tajik vocational colleges on plumbing and electrician courses.
Since 2015, IOM has completed 21 community infrastructure projects across Badakhshon and Khatlon. The completed projects are used by over 20,000 people. The community infrastructure projects improve socio-economic conditions in vulnerable border communities and also act as an important source of employment.
The decision on what community infrastructure projects are built is led by the communities themselves, in cooperation with IOM and local government structures. To date, IOM has constructed or rehabilitated: markets; cold storage facilities; electricity supply systems; schools; irrigation channels; drinking water supply systems; primary medical care points; toilet blocks; and river bank reinforcements.
Community Cohesion and Cross-Border Cooperation
As well as strengthening cross-border livelihoods, IOM also facilitates community dialogues between Tajik and Afghan communities living along the border. This is achieved through cross-border exchanges of civil society groups and community leaders to discuss hared challenges and joint solutions related to life on the border.
Over 600 people have attended cross-border cultural exchanges involving musicians and performers from Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Cross-border sporting exchanges have also been facilitated by IOM, with the construction of 16 volleyball courts in remote border villages in Afghanistan which have played host to matches between Tajik and Afghan youth. These events are important in building trust and positive relations between the two sides.
Tajik and Afghan carpenters making energy-efficient doors.
Tajik and Afghan youth play volleyball on an IOM constructed court as part of cross-border community dialogue activities.
Just as combating human trafficking is an important part of IOM’s mandate internationally, so it is also in Tajikistan. IOM assists the Government of Tajikistan in developing new legal mechanisms and improving relevant legislation in order to make it easier to help victims of trafficking and prosecute the traffickers, as well as raising awareness, particularly of vulnerable segments of the society, on the threats of human trafficking and to know what their legal rights are.
To be able to support themselves and their families about a million Tajik citizens live and work outside of their home country for most part of the year. These Tajik migrant workers, who sometimes have an inadequate level of knowledge on host countries’ languages, legislation, and of their own legal rights, are at a high risk of being subjected to labour exploitation. Additionally, within Tajikistan, underprivileged women, especially belonging to families of migrant workers, are vulnerable to human traffickers who traffic them abroad or to larger cities to exploit them sexually or as domestic slaves.
Through series of theatrical performances IOM Tajikistan teaches audience about the threat of human trafficking by showing real problems and the current forms of trafficking in persons, as well as how to keep themselves and their families safe from traffickers. Qurghonteppa, 20 May 2016. Photo by Abdulfattoh Shafiev
To specify, according to the Government of the United States of America’s annual report on global human trafficking for 2016, Tajik men and women are subjected to forced labor in agriculture and construction in Russia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and, to a lesser extent, in neighboring Central Asian countries. Women and children from Tajikistan are subjected to sex trafficking primarily in UAE and Russia, and also in Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, and Afghanistan, as well as within Tajikistan. Some cases of senior citizens being trafficked are unfortunately also seen.
Since 2003, IOM Tajikistan has implemented 13 national and 5 regional projects in the field of trafficking in persons. The traditional donors supporting IOM’s work to combat trafficking in persons in Tajikistan are USAID, INL (Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs) and the MFA of Norway. Through the course of its activity the IOM Mission in Tajikistan has directly assisted nearly 700 victims of trafficking. The assistance provided to victims of human trafficking includes support in voluntary and safe return to their homeland, provision of shelter, and legal, psychological and medical assistance, vocational training courses, and assisting them with starting up small income-generating businesses.
IOM Tajikistan in cooperation with the Ministry of Labour, Migration, and Employment of Population of the Republic of Tajikistan organizes job fairs for returnee migrants and vulnerable groups of society. Bokhtar district, 11 May 2017
To create safe spaces for some of these victims IOM has established specialised shelters for victims of human trafficking in two different locations in the country - Dushanbe and Buston (Khujand). In addition to offering guests a place to stay with up-to-standard living conditions, human trafficking survivors staying there benefit from legal, medical, and psychosocial assistances provided by experts. Since 2013, the administration of these shelters has been handed over to local implementing partners: the NGO “Femida” (Dushanbe) and the NGO “Women and Society” (Buston).
IOM Tajikistan organized a two-day training on “Human Trafficking, Labour Migrants’ Rights, Migration Threats” for journalists. Dushanbe, 11 July 2016. Photo by Abdulfattoh Shafiev
Prepared with IOM’s technical assistance, the adoption in 2014 of the Law of the Republic of Tajikistan on ‘Counteracting Trafficking in Persons and Providing Support to Victims of Trafficking in Persons’, is considered a major milestone for the Government of Tajikistan. Prior to that, another significant step forward in fighting trafficking in persons has been the establishment of the Tajikistan Inter-Ministerial Commission on Combating trafficking in Persons (IMCCTiP). Furthermore, the Government of Tajikistan has recently adopted a National Referral Mechanism (NRM) which is a framework for identifying victims of human trafficking or modern slavery and ensuring they receive the appropriate support. The mechanism clarifies what responsibilities different government agencies bear in the protection of victims. This shows the government’s renewed commitment to forcefully counter human trafficking.
Employees of Tajikistan embassies and consulates abroad participate at the training on combatting human trafficking. Dushanbe, 01 June 2016. Photo by Abdulfattoh Shafiev
Likewise, the work NGO partners active out in the field put in towards combating trafficking in persons is of great importance to IOM. To improve the support they can collectively provide, some committed NGO have joined together in an anti-trafficking network. This network of NGOs is invaluable since their tight collaboration and constant presence out in the communities makes it easier for them to reach out to the most vulnerable segments of society, raise awareness on the threats of human trafficking, and detect and provide direct assistance to the victims.
The International Organization for Migration represented by Mr Dragan Aleksoski, IOM Tajikistan Chief of Mission, (left) and the Tajikistan Network of Non-Governmental Organizations “Umed” represented by Ms. Sanoat Solieva, NGO “Femida” founder, (right) signed a memorandum on cooperation to protect migrants’ rights and counter human trafficking. Dushanbe, 21 December 2016. Photo by Abdulfattoh Shafiev
Unfortunately, trafficking in persons remains a serious issue both globally and nationally. With close continued cooperation with the Tajik civil society, donors, the Government of Tajikistan and other relevant agencies, IOM Tajikistan is dedicated to continue the work carried out in order to save as many vulnerable individuals as possible from the perils of human trafficking.
Outgoing labour migration from Tajikistan has been occurring on a large scale for more than two decades, starting soon after the fall of the Soviet Union. An absolute majority of the Tajik labour migrants live and work in the Russian Federation. As a social phenomenon this migration has a profound impact not only on the lives of the individual migrants or the families who are being supported by a family member working abroad, but also on the Tajik society as a whole and the country’s economy.
With figures of labour migration peaking at roughly a tenth of Tajikistan’s population being employed abroad a few years ago, the latest development is a decrease in the amount of people leaving the country. The economic crisis in the Russian Federation, a currency depreciation and a tightening of the Russian migration law enforcement have made numbers drop from 800 000 people working abroad in 2013 to 520 000 people in 2016. At the same time there is an increase in the amount of Tajik labour migrants who have reentry bans to the Russian Federation, meaning they are administratively banned from entering the country, which can be due to various reasons, such as not registering properly. In the end of 2016 the figure amounted to nearly 260 000 people and the migrants are usually refused entry for three to five years.
According to its mandate and in line with the national priorities of Tajikistan and international commitments, IOM Tajikistan provides assistance to the Government of Tajikistan on regulation of labour migration issues, including policy making, capacity building activities, research and other activities aimed at maximising the benefits of migration.
During the past five years, IOM Tajikistan has also implemented a number of projects to address the challenges of irregular migration and assist migrant families, women and children to cope with some of the negative aspects of migration.
Migration and Tajik Diaspora
IOM supports the Government of Tajikistan’s efforts to engage the Tajik diaspora living in Russia in development processes in Tajikistan. The government were provided with technical assistance to develop a Concept and Action plan on Engaging Tajik Diaspora in the Development of Tajikistan for the years 2015-2020. This was done through sharing best practices from other regions, conducting trainings on practical engagement of diaspora in development processes, doing a mapping of the Tajik diaspora and other activities aimed at building a closer relationship between the government and the diaspora.
In order to raise the awareness of Tajik citizens regarding safe migration, IOM had held massive information campaigns on the topic. The information sessions and mobile consultations on different aspects of migration managed to cover more than 100 000 Tajik citizens, out of which 30% were females. Additionally, Radio and TV programs on the legal aspects of migration emitted and produced by IOM, targeted 2 million people in Tajikistan.
Migration and left-behind families
Women and children who have been left behind by migrant workers who decide to stay indefinitely in Russia and start a new life there often suffer from a higher vulnerability than other families. To improve their situation it is important to address the negative social aspects of labour migration by empowering women who are left behind and enhancing the protection services offered to them and their children. IOM has provided free legal and psychological assistance to these women from migrant families.
Lately IOM has been addressing the negative consequences of migration in relation to the school education of children from migrant families. An effort was made to raise the awareness of government, non-government partners as well as the public about the risk of dropping out of school children from migrant families face. This was done through trainings and round tables, radio and TV campaigns as well as handing out information materials.
IOM Tajikistan’s work in the field of migration and health is focused on five interconnected strategic functions to ensure migrants’ right to health throughout the migration process: advocacy, health policy development, health service delivery, capacity building and research & development. IOM aims to promote policies and preventive and curative health programs and services which are beneficial, accessible and equitable for vulnerable migrants and mobile populations and also meet specific needs of the Tajik government.
Public awareness-raising event dedicated to World TB Day in the Khatlon region.
During the last decade IOM Tajikistan has implemented many different health related projects, all in different ways contributing to the overall objective of improving the health of migrants and their family members. A major part of the work of is centred on capacity building of health and migration specialists as well as NGO partners, promoting health seeking behavior among migrants, developing informational and educational materials and deepening a multisectoral approach for the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, HIV and tuberculosis. In cooperation with national and foreign academic institutions research has also been carried out on migrant’s knowledge about, attitude towards and practices in relation to these diseases.
IOM advocates for migrant’s rights to adequate health treatment and migrant’s inclusion in and access to health care services. This includes both foreign migrants working in Tajikistan and Tajik citizens working abroad. Innovative approaches to achieve this, piloted by IOM Tajikistan, have been included into Tajik state national health related planning.
Tajik diaspora discussing with Tajik health authorities in a workshop held in Dushanbe on TB prevention among migrants.
Although a lot of the prevention work is carried out on a community level in Tajikistan, with outreaching field work, IOM is also involved in developing regional strategies on cross-border cooperation for improving migrant’s health. As part of this work, IOM contributed to a technical working group focusing on developing an agreement on cross-border TB control and care among migrants and their families between the Republic of Tajikistan and the Republic of Kazakhstan. The regional work also entails advocating for improved policies and cross-border collaboration and partnership between the Republic of Tajikistan and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as well as the Russian Federation, the main country of destination for Tajik migrants.
A national health expert conducts a training session on tuberculosis infection control for community leaders in Kulob.
Currently a big part of IOM’s migration and health work in Tajikistan is focusing on improving migrant’s access to means for TB diagnosis, treatment and care. Based on the results of a rapid situational assessment on migrants’ access to TB and TB/HIV services a number of activities have been implemented to address the revealed gaps. This includes outreach work among migrants in four target districts of the Khatlon province: Baljuvon, Danghara, Farkhor, and Temurmalik; facilitating a dialogue between the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Republic of Tajikistan and the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation to improve cross-border tuberculosis controls; and extending cooperation between Tajikistan and its southern neighbour, Afghanistan. Developing informational and educational materials on tuberculosis are examples of joint international endeavours for the benefit of migrants and their hosting communities.
Operational movements and resettlement
The International Organization for Migration was established to assist people to move back to their home cities and countries after the second World War and therefore one of IOM’s core mandates lie in the resettlement and transportation of people across borders. This is reflected in the important resettlement work that has been carried out in Tajikistan since IOM’s establishment in the country.
IOM IDP convoy travelling from Khorog to Dushanbe in 1995 during the civil war.
During and following the Tajik civil war of 1992-1997, IOM Tajikistan assisted the government of Tajikistan to return over 85,000 Tajik refugees from Afghanistan and other neighbouring countries, and also facilitated the return of 65,000 internally displaced Tajiks to their home communities. Additionally, in cooperation with UNHCR, IOM has assisted with the return of more than 15,000 Afghan refugees from Tajikistan to Afghanistan and resettled over 6,000 Afghan refugees to third countries, such as Canada, the United States of America, and some European countries.
Since 2013, the vast majority of the beneficiaries IOM has resettled have moved to Canada. Before heading off for a fresh start and a new home in Canada IOM organizes a three day long cultural orientation training for them to attend. The training is focused on issues related to the access to education, labour market integration and also deals with possible culture clashes, all aiming at helping them to be able to faster adapt to their new life in a culture radically different from their home country.
Canada Visa Application Centre
VFS Global manages the Canada Visa Application Centre (CVAC), in Tajikistan, operated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Dushanbe. CVAC is the exclusive service provider for the Government of Canada, authorized to accept applications in all temporary resident categories (visitor visas, study and work permits) and travel document applications from Canada’s permanent residents in Tajikistan. For more detailed information about CVAC activity, please visit website at http://www.vfsglobal.ca/canada/Tajikistan/english/index.htmlLearn more about this programme