According to information submitted to the GDP by the International Legal Initiative (ILI), Kazakhstan has introduced a moratorium on new detention orders related to violations of migration legislation, and has temporarily ceased deportation proceedings. However, persons who commit other offences may still be placed in immigration detention, and no persons have been released. Meetings with lawyers, as well as relatives, have also been suspended. This system is due to remain in place until 10 July. While some detainees have been tested for Covid-19 (nine were confirmed to have the virus in Almaty), the ILI reports that not all detainees have had access to testing.
In recent years, increasing numbers of migrants have entered Kazakhstan. Most come from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, and many enter the country in search of employment in the construction and agriculture sectors. Although the country is today believed to host some 3.5 million migrants, more than half of these are believed to be undocumented due to difficulties navigating the registration system after their temporary registration period elapses. Lacking official IDs and registration papers, undocumented migrants are vulnerable to arrest, detention, and deportation.
According to the Central Asian Bueau for Analytical Reporting, although the government introduced unemployment benefits (100.42 USD per month) to help mitigate the economic effects of the lockdown, undocumented migrants cannot not access such payments. Without official IDs or residence permits, they may also not access key health services – and many have expressed fears that they will be arrested should they present themselves for testing or treatment. (Similar concerns about the lack of a “firewall” between health care and immigration authorities have been expressed by migrants and refugees in countries such as Germany (10 June update), Lebanon (2 June update) and South Africa (26 May update) during the pandemic.)
According to several reports, a group of more than 230 Tajik migrants—including pregnant women and children—were trapped for two months at the country’s border with Uzbekistan, in a car park in the Turkestan region. The group were attempting to return to Tajikistan but were blocked by closed borders until 2 June, when authorities facilitated their return home.
- Aina Shormanbayeva (International Legal Initiative), Global Detention Project Covid-19 Survey, 11 June 2020, http://ilifoundation.org/?fbclid=IwAR1-l5ld4JLkqm05NHVPYTkaV2q4AsFz0AP3G45QJ4_7G5UBIu6fJatgQdg
- A. Kakenova, “Experiences of Labor Migrants in Kazakhstan During COVID-19: Leave or Stay?” Central Asian Bureau for Analytical Reporting, 1 June 2020, https://cabar.asia/en/experiences-of-labor-migrants-in-kazakhstan-during-covid-19-leave-or-stay/
- K. Konyrova, “Tajik Citizens Stuck on Kazakh-Uzbek Border Due to Quarantine,” The New European, 2 June 2020, https://www.neweurope.eu/article/tajik-citizens-stuck-on-kazakh-uzbek-border-due-to-quarantine/
- Ferghana, “Застрявших на казахско-узбекской границе таджикистанцев вернули на родину,” 3 June 2020, https://fergana.agency/news/118753/
- A Group of Tajik Migrants at the Silk Road Checkpoint, (Azattyq.org, “Застрявших на казахско-узбекской границе таджикистанцев вернули на родину,” Fergana, 3 June 2020, https://fergana.agency/news/118753/)