Central Asia_

Central Asia is a very important region laying at a strategically important intersection between the two continents. Its importance continually increases due to the EU Enlargement and a creation of the European Neighbourhood Policy. The Central Asian States (Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) have experienced considerable evolution in political and economic transformation since attaining independence. They have established statehood, safeguarded multi-ethnic understanding and inter-religious communication. The newly gained independence also brought along new challenges.  The region, due to its geographical location, continues to be targeted or transited by criminals, professional human smugglers and traffickers, drug traffickers and others. Also, economic stagnation in some countries of the region combined with strong economic growth in the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan have led to an increase of seasonal or permanent labour migration. Many migrants have no legal status and there is a need for a more intensive dialogue and closer cooperation between sending and receiving countries to create a framework that will establish realistic, enforceable rules and balance the interests of migrants and receiving countries.


Kazakhstan is a country with an abundant supply of accessible mineral and fossil fuel resources and a stable GDP growth at a rate higher than 9% in the last five years. Following net out-migration in the early and mid-1990s that reduced the population from 17 to 15 million inhabitants, it has returned to a balanced net migration. Growing salaries and demands for workers have attracted labour migrants from neighbouring countries in Central Asia. Due to a restricted legal employment framework most labour migrants worked irregularly. In mid-2006, the government introduced regularization for certain categories of labour migrants. This initiative, however, has not brought legal status and protection to the majority of labour migrants in Kazakhstan.


On May 1993, the Kyrgyz Republicbecame an observer state of IOM and IOM opened its office in Bishkek in 1996 at the invitation of the Kyrgyz Government. In November 2000 at the 80th session of IOM the Kyrgyz Republic was unanimously accepted as a member state of the organization. 

Since its creation, IOM has been working in the KyrgyzRepublic in areas in which its experience and expertise may be most immediately and usefully applied, such as border management, migration policies, legislation, labor migration and counter-trafficking activities.

The current political, economic, and social situation in the Kyrgyz Republic shows the need to further regulate and improve control of migration processes. A small country with several contentious borders has a number of daunting problems. Over 60% of the population is below the poverty line. Natural resources are limited and the industrial base is nearly inoperational. The southern part of Kyrgyzstan has become one of the major corridors for the transport of Afghan opium-based drugs to the West. The country is used for illegal transit migration from South Asia: from Sri LankaPakistanBangladeshIndiaAfghanistan to RussiaUkraine and Europe. There is also a growing threat of illicit trafficking and smuggling of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) through the territory of the Republic, as well as a danger of smuggling of dual-use goods and related technologies useful for WMD production. Growing instability in Uzbekistan and in the Fergana Valley raises fear of the Islamic radical movements, that may resort to smuggling of arms as well as WMDs and/or materials and technologies useful for production of WMDs through the territory of Kyrgyzstan.

As a result, the large-scale and spontaneous out migration of the Kyrgyz population has become acute. The majority of labour migrants are those engaged in individual entrepreneurship and in “shuttling” – regular or occasional travel for the purpose of selling goods. Seasonal migration is also widespread, mainly for agricultural and construction jobs.

Kyrgyzstan has been affected by a steady brain drain over the past 15 years, and with the large-scale labour migration mainly to Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation. It is estimated that over 300,000 Kyrgyz labourers reside in Russia and over 150,000 reside in Kazakhstan. The external and internal labour migration flows are largely unregulated; the country has virtually no labour migration policy or appropriate legislation, and essentially no suitable administrative structures to address the issue. As there are no rules on recruitment, migrants often end up trafficked and in slave-like situations.

IOM also develops projects in the area of good governance with a focus on anti-corruption and transparency in dealing with migration for development.

IOM continues to assist the government in developing and implementing strong and sustainable migration policies, improved legislation and appropriate administrative structures. IOM aims to support the government in its efforts to promote regular and reduce irregular migration and human trafficking. IOM provides expertise in regulating migration flows, and in capacitating the migration management in all migration issues.


Two years after independence from the former Soviet UnionTajikistan became an observer state of the IOM (in Autumn 1992) and immediately after IOM opened a representation in Dushanbe to begin its country operations.

Throughout the Tajik civil war that lead to the displacement of over 700,000 persons, IOM Dushanbeprovided instrumental assistance to both migrants and government officials to facilitate the return of refugees and other displaced populations. In recognition of IOM's contribution, Tajikistan became a full member State of the IOM on 29 November 1994.

Every year, a considerable percentage of the population migrates to find jobs abroad due to the country's poor, rural and landlocked economy and its young and mobile population. In 2008 the number reached a new record, in all likelihood over one million, or at least half of the country’s labour force. Their remittances exceeded $2 billion, almost half of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The irregular nature of this migration subjects people to discrimination, exploitation and trafficking.

The combination of these factors suggest that equitable well-being and sustainable development in Tajikistan will depend on the government's ability to foster regular, humane and secure movement of human and trade resources in and out of the country. There is still a strong need of capacity building of migration authorities, continued analysis of migration challenges through research, publications and debates, increased awareness of migrants, and leveraging of good migration management.