The quarantine related to COVID-19 left thousands of labor migrants without work and means to support their families. Kyrgyzstan is one of the most dependent countries on migrant remittances in the world, and their massive return threatens the country's economy, and for most people large financial losses. But even this is not so woeful as the fact that many migrants were separated from their families due to the closure of borders.
Thirty-two-year-old Alima [name is changed] planned her trip to her homeland at the beginning of the year as she had to arrange “exit and enter” to the Russian Federation according to the migration regulations. She had bought tickets Moscow-Osh-Moscow back in January 2020 as it cost her less than it would've had she bought it closer to the date of her arrival. Leaving her two-year-old son in the temporary care of her sister in Moscow, she arrived on March 16 and her return flight fell through the first days of quarantine and the cancellation of all inbound flights and closing the borders of the Russian Federation for other citizens occurred.
“I was shocked, I did not expect such a turn of events. I left my son to my sister, only because I had to save money on the trip, and so that he would not suffer on the road. But when I was literally stuck in Osh, I simply did not know what to do and how to be. My sister was supposed to go to work, and there was no one to leave my child with. She agreed with the neighbors to look after my son while she was at work because otherwise she would also lose her work in such a difficult time.” - says Alima.
Alima's mother works as a cleaning lady in the city hall of Kara-Suu. She advised Alima to go to the Single Window Center for free legal advice. So she did.
“We could not help her much. The only thing that I could assist her with was to suggest options where she could apply for information and help in the preparation of appeal letters and other required documents,” says Ykibalkhan Bakirova, a lawyer working at the Single window center for the provision of services to the population in the city hall of Kara-Suu city, Osh province.
According to her, April and May went to correspondence with representatives of the Russian consulate and embassy in Kyrgyzstan, since Alima herself wanted to return to Russia.
“However, when the Russian consulate told us that even if Alima is included into the waiting list for charter flights, it is more likely that she will not be able to pass the border control in Moscow and can be returned back from the airport since there are no legal grounds for entry. Only direct relatives who are citizens of the Russian Federation can be considered a legal basis for entry. After this response, we began to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic so that they would assist in bringing the two-year-old child to Kyrgyzstan and reuniting him with his mother,” the lawyer added.
“It is true that a problem does not come alone. At the end of May, my sister called and informed us of the injury she got at work. Both of her legs were broken. She could not look after the child even when she was at home after work, and actually, she herself needed care,” Alima sadly sighed.
Alima filed an official application with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic on June 18 and about ten days after she was informed that her son could be brought with the other migrants in the next charter flight on July 4th. Of cause if wouldn't be possible without effective co-operation of the MFA of both Kyrgyzstan and Russia.
“I could not sleep, I was looking forward to this day. I was very afraid that something else might happen and this flight would not fly as planned. I could only pray and hope for the mercy of God,” Alima says through tears.
This is how Alima went through all the anxiety of hopelessness and powerlessness, which the coronavirus pandemic put before many migrants.
The single window center in Kara-Suu city hall is one of 9 Centers created under the Peacebuilding Fund project “Promoting Kyrgyzstan's youth cohesion and interaction towards Uzbekistan” and providing services to population in border municipalities in Osh, Batken and Jalal-Abad provinces of the Kyrgyz Republic.