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By Bakyt Ibraimov
OSH – Tashtemir Baigaziyev, 27, came in June to Osh from Ak-Bosogo, a remote village in Alai District, Osh Oblast, in search of work.
“There’s no work in the village. Some of my relatives raise livestock, and it still doesn’t save their family from poverty,” he said. “I came here to find work, but I haven’t found anything suitable, so I have to work in the central market and haul loads in a rented cart.”
Baigaziyev went to a local NGO for employment advice.
“I didn’t know that I needed a new passport to work abroad,” he said. “I was also advised on what documents and other papers I need to get work. I still intend to leave for work after I get my passport.”
NGOs like the one he went to have been involved in the “Central Asia in Motion” programme, started about four years ago, in an effort to protect the rights of Kyrgyz looking for work in Kyrgyzstan and abroad.
“We’ve already started promoting the civil and social rights of migrant workers and their families through the programme, which consists of 25 NGOs in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that work on migration issues at the national and international level,” said Akylbek Tashbulatov, director of the Centre for Support of International Protection.
“There are about 1m internal migrants in our country who were forced to leave their villages to seek work in cities,” he said. “Most of them have a hard time finding a place to live and need protection of their constitutional rights.”
On the flip side, the number of Kyrgyz citizens who migrate to former Soviet countries to work is not decreasing. More than 500,000 Kyrgyz citizens work abroad. And they, too, may suffer rights violations at work or problems when they arrive in their host country, he added.
Ikbol Bahramova, director of the Osh branch of the NGO Development and Co-operation in Central Asia, told Central Asia Online that her organisation is working to promote migrant workers’ rights.
“One important task is preparing migrant workers and their families for migrating (while they are) in Kyrgyzstan and, more precisely, improving their … awareness of their rights and obligations in the host country before and after migrating,” she said.
Abroad, her organisation plans to protect the labour rights of migrant Kyrgyz in Russia and Kazakhstan, where regional programmes are being developed to discuss and find solutions for the problems they face, Bahramova said.
“Regarding internal migration, we are also going to promote the interests of people who are having problems exercising their labour rights and accessing social services in Kyrgyzstan,” she said. “Residents of villages and economically underdeveloped regions remain a socially vulnerable group.”
Internal migrants who move to cities face a plethora of challenges, Jenishbek Toroyev, director of the Human Rights Advocacy Centre, an association of NGOs, told Central Asia Online: “Internal migrants don’t have residence permits, and lacking them is often an obstacle” to such things as getting healthcare and education for their children.
For example, Tolgonai Adilova, 42, who went through Toroyev’s group, moved from the border village of Kulundu, Batken Oblast, to Osh to escape the conflicts that arise with Tajiks on an almost daily basis.
“We rent a cottage here on the outskirts of Osh and are constantly running into social problems,” Adilova said, adding that she had trouble enrolling her two youngest children in the local schools and had to hire lawyers to fix the problem.
“We intend to work closely with families that are likely to migrate due to economic circumstances, explain to them their rights, provide social support at the regional and national level and, of course, lobby for eliminating obstacles like the residence permit, which causes troublesome situations,” Toroyev said.