Regional Director Visits Central Asia

The complexity and vibrancy of the migration landscape in Central Asia was at the top of the agenda of regional director Manfred Profazi as he paid an official visit to the region last week.

Mr. Profazi concentrated his visit on Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, where he had high-level meetings with ministries, parliamentary officials, ambassadors, NGOs, civil society organizations, UN Officials, migrant groups and beneficiaries of IOM reintegration programmes.

The highest-level meetings were with Tanzila Narbaeva and Chairperson of the Uzbek Senate. In Kyrgyzstan Mr Profazi met Minister of Labour, Social Security and Migration, Ms. Gulnara Baatyrova, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, Mr. Baisalov Edil Zholdubaevich and First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Asein Isaev.

Manfred Profazi, stressing IOM’s support to Uzbekistan in the realms of climate change, female migration and reintegration of returned migrants, invited the Parliament of Uzbekistan to jointly develop a Migration Development Strategy for the country. This initiative was welcomed by Senate Chairperson Narbaeva.

NGO's in Farghona
Regional Director Manfred (left) and Sub-regional Coordinator for Central Asia Zeynal Hajiyev (right) visit traditional Uzbek ikat production factory in Marghilan, Uzbekistan September 15, 2023

At his meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Bahromjon A'Loyev Mr. Profazi discussed current issues of cooperation between Uzbekistan and IOM, exchanged views on the further development of bilateral cooperation in the areas of ensuring the rights of migrant workers, combating human trafficking, and considered prospects for the implementation of new IOM projects in Uzbekistan.

During his visit, Mr. Profazi also met with civil society organizations and NGOs, and paid tribute to “the crucial role civil society plays in supporting those in need. They help us see the challenges, and listen to migrants and their communities. Along with NGOs, they are our eyes and ears.”

Earlier, in Kyrgyzstan, Minister of Labour, Social Security and Migration, Ms. Gulnara Baatyrova assured Mr Profazi that the Kyrgyz government plans to develop a Migration Code or a unified law on migration, as well as working on the reintegration of migrants, on creating conditions for employment of returned compatriots.

Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers Edil Baisalov and Mr. Profazi discussed social protection of Kyrgyz migrants, need for a modern system of labor migration management, and effective policies and strategies to stop the “brain drain”.

While in Kyrgyzstan Mr Profazi met returned migrant Cholpon Sulaimanov, who had recently returned to his homeland after six months in the UK. There, he made some savings, which when matched with funds by an IOM project allowed him to open a sewing business. He now produces up to 3,000 pieces of clothing a week and employs 17 people, with plans for 20 more.

Regional Director Manfred Profazi in Kyrgyzstan
Regional Director Manfred Profazi visits an IOM-supported small business in Kygyzstan, set up by returning migrant Cholpon Sulaimanov. 

In Namangan, Uzbekistan’s second city, Mr. Profazi visited a “monocenter”, an IOM-supported one-stop-shop for training and informing migrants. It provides vocational training in 28 specialities, and language courses in English, German, Turkish, Russian, Korean, and Japanese.

“There is high demand for our graduates”, Umida Muhammadjonova, Director of the Monocentre told Mr. Profazi, “because we take into consideration qualification requirements from potential employers, both within the country and abroad, and we tailor our training programmes to meet the labour market trends. We have trained over 120 people, so far 100 per cent of our graduates are fully employed, in Uzbekistan, Qatar, UAE, Turkiye and other countries. The courses are contributing to improving the lives of many, enabling them to undertake higher paid jobs with better working conditions”.

Given the increasing number of female migrants, Mr. Profazi suggested to mainstream protection related themes into the training curricula, in order to minimize the risks of potential exploitation of women.

Bukhara NGO
Regional Director visits an NGO operated shelter in Bukhara, Uzbekistan September 16, 2023

“It was a great privilege for me to visit these countries and feel the warmth of the welcome there,” said Mr. Profazi. “Migration is such a huge part of this region, from the times of the Silk Route and before, and continues to play a huge part in the lives of so many. The governments in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan recognize the centrality of migration in society and the significant part it plays in development. IOM is proud to work with them and with all our partners to ensure that we optimize migration’s benefits. We must also keep a firm focus on challenges – particularly those posed by our changing climate – and work together to find ways to adapt or overcome them.”

SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities