Women and children from Kyrgyzstan affected by migration

In Kazakhstan and in Russia, the rights of migrant workers from Central Asia are regularly violated, declared FIDH and its partners in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, in Bishkek during the presentation of two reports: “Women and children from Kyrgyzstan affected by migration” and “Migrant workers in Kazakhstan: no status, no rights“. The two reports denounce not only the sad state of affairs for migrant workers, but also that of their families in Kyrgyzstan – particularly the women and children – who are left behind.
Our organisations urge the authorities of the countries of destination – mainly Russia and Kazakhstan, – and those of the countries of origin – Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, – to respect their international obligations and ensure that the rights of migrant workers and their families are respected. The death of 17 Kyrgyz migrant workers in a Moscow worksite fire on 27 August 2016 is an urgent reminder of the need to respect those commitments.
The two reports were written following an investigation conducted by our organisations in 2015 and 2016 together with Kyrgyz, Kazakh and Russian civil society groups. The reports’ conclusions and recommendations are based on more than forty interviews with migrants from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
In Kazakhstan, most migrants, who are mainly from Central Asia, do not have legal documents and work without permits or contracts. This situation makes them more vulnerable, lead to poor working and living conditions, and limit their access to healthcare, justice, and education for their children.
The report denounces practices that contribute to the exploitation of workers, especially the confiscation of passports by employers which restricts migrants’ freedom of movement and prevents them from quitting their job despite the abusive working conditions, (salary decrease or no salary at all etc). Migrant workers are also often victim of human trafficking for the purpose of forced labour or sexual exploitation. Youzma, of Uzbek nationality, recounts: “A woman approached me in a market in Tashkent. She promised me a job as a waitress in Shymkent with a good salary. […] I was forced into prostitution [in Kazakhstan]. I was lucky if I got four hours of sleep a day, they hardly gave me any food and I was forced to “work” non-stop […].”.
Our organisations conducted further investigations in Kyrgyzstan into the discrimination experienced by women and children who are affected by migration, whether they leave or stay behind when their partners/parents migrate. Those who emigrate have to live in crowded and dirty lodging, and have only limited access to health services (including sexual and reproductive health) and education. Women are especially vulnerable to abusive work conditions. Many of those from Central Asia are also targets of racist and xenophobic actions left totally unpunished, particularly in Russia: “I work from 10 in the morning until 10 at night. My husband comes to get me every night because I am afraid to go home alone. It is very dangerous for the Kyrgyz. Once, in the subway I saw three Russians beat a Kyrgyz, shouting ‘you’re a Muslim’. No one said anything”, said sadly Anora from the province of Chuy (north Kyrgyzstan). The report also denounces the social phenomenon of the so-called “Patriots” in Russia, where Kyrgyz men carry out assaults on Kyrgyz women because they think their life style is too loose, and even ‘immoral’.
Migrant workers in Kazakhstan: no status, no rights