Regional IOM experts address Central Asian migrant vulnerabilities, violent extremism and integration needs

ASTANA – Representatives from the USAID analytical centre and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) met in the Kazakh capital Sept. 10 to address the problems faced by migrants in Central Asia. The main agenda item presented the results of a migrants’ vulnerability assessment, as well as the findings of counteraction to extreme radicalisation in the region.

This event, held in an interactive discussion format, was the fifth of its kind organised in cooperation with the Central Asian IOM office.

IOM conducted sociological surveys and field trips to identify regional migration trends and common problems among individuals. The first part of the project draws on the assessment of their conditions; the second is related to the consequences of the ban on migrants re-entering Russia.

The ban has not only reduced the number of migrants, but has also altered migration trends and created new challenges in the region as well as establishing an additional group of vulnerable people. One of its main challenges is the criminalisation of labour migrants and the resulting issues.

“The main problem of illegal migration is the fact that when an individual keeps working there, s/he is prone to numerous risks. If migrants are not officially registered, then they do not have access to medical care, social care, etc.,” said Marian Abisheva, international and national programme head at the Library of the First President.

The agenda also identified the assimilation issue, an ever-existing problem that became more compelling with the ban. Migrants not directly affected have experienced its latent effects, making them feel unwelcome and finding it hard to integrate.

“The characteristics of vulnerable migrant groups are the same as the characteristics found in radicalised people,” said IOM lead international expert Piotr Kazmierkiewicz.

“The research conducted by IOM showed that the vulnerability of migrants by violent extremist groups was identified as an area of possible concern in the Central Asian region,” noted USAID Central Asia DGO Director Stephanie Garvey.

The two main shifts in migration trends are Kazakhstan’s change from the “intermediary point” to the “destination point” and an increase in the number of female migrants.

Traditionally, males are the breadwinners in Central Asian families. When the ban was issued, however, those who migrated to earn money before it was instituted were unable to re-enter the country. As a result, their wives left home for other countries to provide for their families. Often, their children accompanied them and became migrants as well. Kazmierkiewicz noted children and women are identified as the most vulnerable groups.

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