"It's a relief to be on the road back home", says Murod (name changed), one of the migrants who's been left without a source of income in Karaganda, Kazakhstan. "Since the beginning of the crisis business activities have lowered significantly, markets are closed, construction sites and services sectors experience smaller demand. I was hoping to have a sustainable source of income in Kazakhstan but ended up hardly making my own ends meet."
On 1 December IOM Missions in Central Asia, Diaspora and partner-NGOs facilitated the voluntary return of 376 vulnerable migrants back to Tajikistan. People had been coming to the Zhibek-Zholy border point in Shymkent from multiple areas of Kazakhstan, all in hopes of transiting Uzbekistan's territory and reaching Oybek (Sughd) border in Tajikistan. Some even spent almost 30 hours on their way to Shymkent from Karaganda, Pavlodar, Petropavlovsk, traveling an additional 1,400 km to get to the border.
Global economic downturn pushes people to return home, as host communities are unable to provide migrants with adequate social and economic security. It's been more than 6 months since IOM has conducted it's first mass voluntary return movement, and it still keeps receiving pledges for assistance every day. 3000 Migrants, citizens of Tajikistan, have received assistance in their voluntary return to date.
The establishment of non-contact ground corridors is essential to ensure that returnees are able to transit international territories in a timely and dignified manner, with their needs addressed and vulnerabilities accounted for.
The direct assistance was made possible thanks to the joint efforts of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Embassies and Migration Service departments in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan and was supported by the regional IOM initiative "Mitigating Socio-Economic Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Migrants and Communities in Central Asia and The Russian Federation", funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).