IOM, UNICEF, and the Government of Tajikistan, jointly facilitated the return home of Tajik migrants who had been stranded at the Kazakhstan/Uzbekistan border.
The new wave of Tajik migrants stranded at the Zhibek Zholi border point included more than 700 migrants, including 41 children. The movement was coordinated by the Government of Tajikistan with the cooperation of the Governments of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and facilitated by the IOM missions in the three countries. This transportation, as well as provision of humanitarian assistance prior departure was financed by the Kingdom of Norway.
Since introduction of quarantine measures, Tajik migrants in Kazakhstan moved towards the border with Uzbekistan in the hope of continuing their journey home to Tajikistan. Some of them endured harsh conditions while waiting at the border for days or even weeks. Among them, children and their mothers, often living without access to water, food and sanitary facilities, and without shelter, out in the open and fully exposed to the elements.
IOM, in cooperation with its local civil society partner in Kazakhstan, Sana Sezim, provided subsistence assistance to the migrants as well as hygiene kits and personal protection items. UNICEF Tajikistan provided support to ensure return of children into their homes.
The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated governments to take containment measures designed to limit the spread of the virus. These extraordinary measures, including travel and mobility restrictions, are having an impact on all people, but some are exacerbating the precarious situations and vulnerabilities of migrant populations and leading to a large number of migrants being stranded.
The UN Migration Agency recognizes and supports measures to contain the spreading of COVID-19 while emphasizing the right of migrants and their families to return. IOM and UNICEF urge all stakeholders, in countries of destination, transit and origin, to explore ways to ensure that stranded migrants, especially children and their direct caregivers have the option to return safely to their countries of origin, all the while taking into full consideration public health measures, ensuring child-sensitive protection measures and upholding the rights of migrant or displaced people.
To learn more about issues concerning stranded migrants and protecting and assisting migrants during Covid-19, please visit: https://www.iom.int/Issuebriefs