Migrants in Central Asia and the Russian Federation, have been among the most severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the short term, IOM aims at providing support to migrants who are stranded in countries of destination. In addition, IOM will focus its efforts on addressing data gaps, enhancing national and community preparedness, response and recovery efforts, ensuring that affected people have access to basic services, commodities and protection as well as mitigating the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19.
Globally, an estimated 7.6 million international migrants are from Central Asia, and approximately 10.5 million migrants are from the Russian Federation.
The main countries of destination for the Central Asian nationals are the Russian Federation, Turkey, and Kazakhstan.
The Russian Federation alone hosts approximately 12 million migrants.
Travel restrictions put in place by governments against the spread of COVID-19 have severe impacts on migrants’ lives. Many migrants are facing disruption to travel plans, loss of income, or illness. Many may be pushed into vulnerable or exploitative situations. Previous crises have established that criminals, employers and others will seize the opportunity to exploit migrants by cutting or withholding wages, threatening to report migrants to authorities, and exploiting them in other ways.
Supporting the continuum of critical protection mechanisms and responses to those most in need, or in need of specific care and protection, such as women and girls at risk of or survivors of gender-based violence (GBV), children, persons with disabilities, unaccompanied and separated children, and elderly is critical. As such, identifying the most vulnerable amongst the migrant population, developing and implementing case plans, and overseeing delivery of the services necessary to uphold the rights of migrants in vulnerable situations and to move towards sustainable case resolution is of key importance.
For example, as of the end of April, only in Moscow and Moscow oblast, approximately 10,000 Kyrgyz migrants lost their jobs and ran out of means of support. There are reports of migrants who had to vacate their rental apartments and could not afford to rent a new ones. Also, some migrants were not allowed to leave the transit zone of the airports. Over 400 Central Asian citizens had spent nights at the Vnukovo Airport in Moscow, before the airports fully closed their doors leaving the migrants outside. In addition, migrants from Central Asia got stuck at the airports of Novosibirsk, Ufa, Krasnodar and Yekaterinburg, prior to the full closure of those airports. Among all vulnerable migrants, it is estimated that around 40 per cent are women and children. However, there is a need to conduct an assessment to verify those numbers.