It has already been three months since we first heard about confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection in Kyrgyzstan. Now the pandemic has affected almost all countries, provoked a deep economic crisis and led to the closure of borders between countries. This has had a significant impact on multiethnic border communities in Kyrgyzstan.
In communities in Southern Kyrgyzstan bordering Uzbekistan, it is not uncommon to meet mixed families when citizens of two countries marry. But with the quarantine and the closure of borders between neighboring countries, these families are facing many difficulties.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic in the country, more than 100 Kyrgyz citizens, married and living with Uzbek citizens, were not able to cross the border at the Dostuk checkpoint in Kara-Suu district of Osh oblast to reunite with their families due to closed international borders.
As situation with the Pandemic developed, the lawyers of the Service Centers for population in the border municipalities of Kyrgyzstan often received inquiries during quarantine related to expired registrations or passports of foreign citizens.
Sixteen-year-old Feruza (her name was changed) is a citizen of Uzbekistan like her father and brother. She has been with her family in her mother’s hometown in Kyrgyzstan since the beginning of the year. Her father worked at a construction site, and her mother worked in a local cafe. Feruza was supposed to return to Uzbekistan in April, as her passport expired on 1 May 2020. But the family hadn’t expected that the borders would close. Her father and siblings decided to return to Uzbekistan when the states announced about border closure in couple of days. Her mother could join them as she is a citizen of Kyrgyzstan.
“When we decided to go home to Uzbekistan, the border guards let my father and brother exit the country, but I wasn’t allowed to go because my passport had already expired on 1 May 2020. The representatives of the state registration committee said that I needed to get a certificate allowing to return to my homeland from the Uzbek embassy in Kyrgyzstan. I waited for my mother at the border checkpoint until the evening, and then I returned home with her to Kara-Suu. My father and brother went to Uzbekistan,” Feruza says.
The next day, Feruza and her mother went to the Kara-Suu Service Center for the population to get free legal assistance.
“We contacted the southern representative office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic and received detailed information on the terms of the Green corridor, which was established on the suggestion of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic for all foreigners, allowing to leave the country. We consulted Feruza and her mother about their situation. We also contacted the consulate of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Bishkek. In general, I want to note the positive cooperation of the consulates of neighboring countries. Beneficiaries do not always turn directly to the Consulates, and the primary legal assistance that we provide, to some extent, helps to relieve their workload and we are able to provide assistance to those who need it, to increase legal awareness.” - explained Ykibalkhan Bakirova, the lawyer of the Center.
“The consulate of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Bishkek quickly helped us by allowing us to send the necessary documents by mail without coming to Bishkek. So, we received a certificate to return to our homeland without personally going to the Consulate, which was extremely important for us in connection with the restrictive quarantine measures and the absence of transportation between the cities. We saved time and money during this difficult time,” – Feruza’s mother said.
Thanks to the legal assistance received from the Service Center for population, Feruza got her documents in five days and she was able to enter Uzbekistan and reunite with her father and brother.
“Of course, I miss my mother, but I believe that soon the situation with this coronavirus will be resolved and our family will be reunited! I am grateful to the authorities of both Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan for understanding my case, explaining everything to me and trying their best to help me.” – says Feruza.
Feruza’s case is one of many similar cases that were resolved by the lawyers working in the Service Centers opened in 9 pilot municipalities of Osh, Batken and Jalal-Abad oblasts within the framework of PBF project “Promoting Kyrgyzstan's Youth Cohesion and Interaction towards Uzbekistan”.