On 27 January 2021, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) organized the Ministerial Conference of the Almaty Process to discuss solutions to regional challenges posed by the complex dynamics of refugee protection and migration in Central Asia, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Almaty Process, a regional consultative process on refugee protection and international migration to, from and within Central Asia, brought together high-level officials of member states and observers: The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan, the Republic of Turkey, Turkmenistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Republic of Uzbekistan to discuss results of joint work achieved so far and future activities to support migrants and refugees in the region.
According to Zeynal Hajiyev, IOM Chief of Mission in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, Coordinator for Central Asia, “Trust and partnership established at the Almaty Process platformed significantly helped during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the help of government counterparts IOM was able to assist the most vulnerable migrants and despite closed borders facilitate the return of 3101 people from Kazakhstan back home. Almaty Process has great potential to become a key platform to engage all Central Asian countries and countries with which region shares common migration flows in effective dialogue.”
“The global COVID pandemic affects us all, without discrimination, impacting disproportionally the most vulnerable, including refugees and migrants. The pandemic has shown the importance of working together in ensuring that everybody has access to health care, treatment, vaccinations, other services, and aid, leaving no-one behind,” said Hans Friedrich Schodder, Representative of UNHCR for Central Asia.
Central Asia has a long history of complex population movements, including both voluntary migration and forced displacement. The recent closure of borders and the restriction of air and rail connections due to COVID-19 have also exacerbated the situation for migrants and refugees.
The Almaty Process, established in 2013, is called upon to respond to multiple challenges posed by mixed movements and to strengthen regional cooperation and coordination of issues of mixed movements. UNHCR and IOM provide administrative and technical support to the Almaty Process.