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“Clear and Present Crisis” in Russian Federation and Central Asia – IOM Launches Urgent Appeal

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Moscow/Nur Sultan – The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound impact on Central Asia and the Russian Federation, where migration influences every aspect of daily life.

Thousands of migrants are stranded due to travel restrictions. Remittance flows – the lifeblood of several regional economies – has slowed to a trickle.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs also have been lost abroad and millions of families are in danger of extreme poverty. Those migrants who do make it home are returning to joblessness, stigma and, potentially, social unrest.

The social and economic face of one-sixth of the world’s surface has dramatically changed, and recovery will take years.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) yesterday (14/05) launched an urgent appeal for USD 7 million to ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on migrant communities in six countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) until the end of 2020.

Over 100 people took part in the virtual launch, representing donors, embassies, migration experts and governments, together with senior IOM staff in Vienna, Moscow, Nur Sultan, and the other regional capitals.

Globally, IOM has launched a USD 499 million Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan to respond to the largest mobility crisis of our times.

Meanwhile, the fight against the spread of the pandemic goes on. Huge resources are needed simply to provide health care for the sick and ensure measures are taken to flatten the curve. In one of the world’s most mobile regions – where millions migrate for work between Central Asia and the Russian Federation – over 80 per cent of migrants surveyed by IOM and its partners report loss of or reduction in their incomes.

Their vulnerability has sharply increased. “We know from previous crises that migrants are ruthlessly exploited, by having their wages cut, or being threatened with being reported to the authorities,” said Dyane Epstein, IOM’s Regional Director for South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “Some will be forced into the shadow economy, where they are further exploited, compromising their physical and mental health.”

IOM plans to provide support to governments and communities dealing with the impact of disruption to labour markets and severely reduced remittance flows. “Our initial research shows that over 90 per cent of labour migrants will be unable to send remittances home,” warned IOM’s Sub-Regional Coordinator for Central Asia, Zeynal Hajiyev. “They have no savings and the industries they depend on are mothballed.”

“This is a clear and present crisis,” stressed IOM’s Chief Mission for the Russian Federation, Abdusattor Esoev. “Sixty per cent of migrants have told us they can’t pay their rent, while more than 40 per cent can’t afford food. Millions of people are teetering on the brink. We can provide a safety net but the time to act is right now.”

Highlights of IOM’s appeal for Central Asia and the Russian Federation:

  • Provide migrants in vulnerable situations, especially women and children, stranded in the main destination and transit countries (Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Turkey) with safe and appropriate living conditions, information on COVID-19 and preventive measures, protective masks and sanitizers, access to health screening, advice and services, and access to online education for migrant children.

  • Research and understand the vulnerability of migrants that are being stranded to ensure appropriate assistance.

  • Support Central Asian migrants to return safely to their homelands.

  • Support economic and social reintegration in their home communities.

  • Mitigate the socio-economic impact of the crisis on migrants and their families.

  • Support migrants in difficult situations with counselling and referral to the state health-care system.

  • Assist migrants to seek alternative employment across the region by serving as link between employers and migrants.

The appeal can be downloaded here.

Watch video message from IOM’s Chief Mission for the Russian Federation, Abdusattor Esoev.

For more information please contact Joe Lowry, IOM Vienna, Tel: +436603776505, Email: *jlowry@iom.int *

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