In addition to substantial out-migration (See the Monitor, May 26) and repatriation (See the Monitor, January 30), Kazakhstan is grappling with two other population movements: refugees and guest-workers. The plight of both is currently being assessed by Kazakhstan’s Agency for Migration and Demography, according to the Agency’s chief, Zautpek Turispekov. Last month, Turispekov addressed a conference on refugees and displaced persons in the CIS at the Geneva-based United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). (Delovaya nedelya [Almaty], June 26)
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, between 1994 and 1997 Kazakhstan experienced an influx of over 4,000 refugees. Of those, 2,100 had fled Afghanistan and most of the remainder, Chechnya and Tajikistan. Many more asylum-seekers are believed to be living in the republic unregistered. Kazakhstani legislation does not give full consideration to the status of refugee. Nor has Kazakhstan signed the 1951 Convention on Refugees–unlike Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In March, UN High Commissioner Sadako Ogata visited Almaty to encourage President Nursultan Nazarbaev to sign the Convention. (Delovaya nedelya [Almaty], May 15) The Kazakhstani authorities have, however, given more prominence to the repatriation of ethnic Kazakh refugees. Of the more than three million Kazakhs who live outside Kazakhstan, tens of thousands live in conflict-torn Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Turispekov stated that Kazakhs who fled Afghanistan to Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are being flown at state expense to Kazakhstan.
The issue of guest-workers received less attention in Geneva, but is also a potential source of social friction. The “imported” work force is temporarily employed in low-paid jobs, such as in construction in Almaty and Astana, or in oil and gas operations in western Kazakhstan. Precise numbers are not available. This does not prevent the local media from periodically accusing foreign workers of depriving Kazakhstani citizens of jobs and Kazakhstan of needed income.–SC
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