COVID-19 migration challenges in Central Asia discussed at ministerial conference in Almaty

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According to IOM, 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: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan to discuss results of joint work achieved so far and future activities to support migrants and refugees in the region.

Zeynal Hajiyev, IOM Chief of Mission in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, Coordinator for Central Asia noted that trust and partnership established at the Almaty Process platform 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 person from Kazakhstan back home. Almaty Process has great potential to become key platform to engage all Central Asian countries and countries with which region shares common migration flows in an effective dialogue,” he said.

“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, to 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.

Established in 2013, the Almaty Process 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.

Source: Asia plus