03 Jul 2021
By: IOM Kyrgyzstan

More than 700,000 citizens of Kyrgyzstan are abroad. What are the stories behind the numbers?  

IOM has spent decades conducting on-the-ground fieldwork in Kyrgyzstan along the migration paths to the main destination and neighboring countries, seeking a better approach to assist the most vulnerable. We found out that poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to basic services are central factors that push the Kyrgyz people to become migrants. 

Yet, the story of each migrant is unique. Some are simply looking for a chance to make enough money to secure a better future for themselves or their children. Others seek protection from persecution through migration because vulnerability and poverty are so intertwined that it becomes impossible to separate them. 

This year, to mark International Migrants Day, we wanted to tell you a story of a Kyrgyz migrant family who wishes for a stable present and better future for their children.  

The story of a Kyrgyz migrant family risking everything to send their children to school 

Sanobar, a 51-year-old woman, and Asanbai, a 52-year-old man, are parents of six children, who live in the Aravan region in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan. The family lived in a remote village and struggled to survive and send their six children to school. To provide a better future for their children, the family decided to migrate to the Russian Federation, leaving five kids to a relative to look after them until they return. Sanobar and Asanbai were not alone in making such a decision. According to the State Migration Service of the Kyrgyz Republic, approximately 50 000 people leave the country every year.   

When Sanobar’s family was in the Russian Federation, a stranger who claimed to be from the same village as them back in Kyrgyzstan approached the family one day and offered to work for his brother. Sanobar took the offer. The recruiter then transferred Sanobar, her husband and her eldest daughter to a farm where they looked after seventy sheep, two horses and six cows, and worked on the field to grow greens and vegetables. The family lived in the cold shed with the livestock, and as a result, got sick very often.  

That year, the winter came earlier, and the field of carrots, cabbages, and other vegetables was covered with snow. The exploiter forced other slaves and us to pick up vegetables with bare hands.

The recruiter never paid them. They planned to escape, but they could not escape because the recruiter took their documents. They could only manage to hide the passports of their daughter. One day, Sanobar and her family eventually escaped by using the chance when the exploiter was absent. 

We wanted to go back home, but we had no money; therefore, we started working on the field in the neighboring village after we escaped. Our job was similar to the previous one, equally difficult, but at least we were paid. We saved up a bit, and we flew back to Kyrgyzstan.

Sanobar and her family eventually came back to their village and sought assistance from IOM for reintegration. IOM assesses cases of migrants who are seeking reintegration assistance and, together with the beneficiary, plans an assistance package depending on their needs and requests. Sanobar and her family requested psychological support, clothes, food packages and equipment to cultivate their land.

Three years have passed since the Sanobar and her family returned back home to Kyrgyzstan and reunited with rest of their family.  

We are trying our best to make a business here back home through cultivating our land and selling products we harvest. We want to be closer to our children and be home together as a family.

Today, IOM Kyrgyzstan continues to provide support to the most vulnerable migrants to ensure that migrants like Sanobar and their families are protected throughout their journey and can reintegrate well upon their return.

SDG 1 - No Poverty
SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being
SDG 5 - Gender Equality