Government representatives and senior officials from the four Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - and the Russian Federation - have gathered in the eastern Kyrgyz resort area of Ysyk-Kol this week in an effort to improve cooperation on dealing with the increasing flow of migrant workers in the region.
"The issue of unregulated labour migration is a major issue in Central Asia," the acting chief of mission for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Frederic Chenais, told IRIN from the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, on Tuesday, emphasising the need for stronger regularisation and legislation to protect not just the migrant but also the sending and receiving countries.
Inasmuch as the issue of labour migration impacted seriously on Kyrgyzstan, he emphasised the need for a regional approach. Hundreds of thousands of people in Central Asia continue to travel to Russia seeking employment, and their remittances to their home countries play a critical role in the economy, he explained, adding that some 300,000 migrants from Kyrgyzstan alone were currently working in Russia.
Concurring, Christian Knut, the Human Dimension Assistant for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Bishkek, said thousands of people left Kyrgyzstan for Russia each year in search of work, and "this type of migration has to be regulated". Following recent legislative moves in Russia on immigrants, there was the threat that some of them could be sent home if they were there illegally, he told IRIN.
Last month, Kazakhstan adopted a new law on illegal immigration, resulting in the deportation of many Kyrgyz nationals back to their country. "We really need to find a way to deal with the issue of labour migration - not just an understanding, but a legal basis and framework," Knut stressed.
The three-day event, which opened on Monday, was organised by the OSCE's Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the Bishkek-based Regional Centre for Migration and Refugee Issues, and the IOM.
Commenting on the significance of the meeting, the ODIHR migration adviser, Vladimir Shkolnikov, said in a statement that the region had been facing a steadily increasing flow of migrant workers over the past years. "This meeting will discuss how to ensure protection of the rights of those migrant workers and to increase the benefits of labour migration to both sending as well as receiving countries," he said.
In this context, Chenais noted that in the absence of proper regulations, the scope for the abuse of migrants also increased.
As participating states of the OSCE, the four countries and Moscow, have agreed to implement a large body of commitments related to labour migration and the rights of migrant workers.
The ODIHR assists the countries of the region with improving cooperation and exchange of information related to cross-border migration. Representatives of the OSCE centres in the Kazakh city of Almaty and the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, as well as the United Nations International Labour Organisation are also participating in the event.
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