Societies agree on joint action to help migrants

Publié: 12 juillet 2013 10:17 CET

By Davron Mukhamadiev, IFRC, and Sergey Kobets, The Russian Red Cross Society

Migration is one of the world's major issues. In a country like Russia alone around 12-14 million people – 10 per cent of the population – are migrants, the majority of them from neighbouring countries.

They seek work and often find work. But thousands of migrants face problems, being cheated by employers or syndicates or getting on the wrong side of the authorities simply because they are not fully aware of the rules and the laws.

Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) are working closely together to assist migrants, before they leave home, while they are abroad, and when they return.

The National Societies agreed last year to find common approaches and to increase cooperation and assist migrants; one concrete example is an EU-funded programme in Central Asia providing training and support to thousands of migrants from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan taking up work in Kazakhstan and Russia.

In June, The Russian Red Cross Society hosted a regional meeting of 13 National Societies of the former Soviet Union on migration, with participation from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The main objective was to discuss how to increase the effectiveness of assistance with a focus on labour migration, refugees and asylum seekers, and human trafficking. Special attention was paid to a discussion on how to ensure migrants have access to health and care services as well as legal and social support. Restoring family links for migrants and cooperation among tracing services of National Societies of the former USSR became a special part of this meeting as migration in a number of cases have resulted in family members losing contact with each other.

At the meeting it was noted that there is a need to constantly review the methods and areas of work with migrants due to the changing nature of migration, both for those who travel directly to Russia and those who use it as a transit country.

While systems and laws are in place in many countries, they can be difficult to implement. One example is that Russia has adopted a legal framework governing the health issues of foreign nationals. It provides basic assistance to those in need regardless of health insurance or whether they are registered in the clinic or not.

“In practice, this legislation is not implemented properly and there are often misunderstandings or misinterpretations, so that migrants are denied health services,” says Gavkhar Juraeva, representative of migrants of the Tajik diaspora, who participated in the meeting. “The rules are that emergency assistance must be provided to a person so long as his or her condition does not improve, but because of the pressure on health facilities, lack of insurance or other reasons, migrants are often turned away completely or discharged after three days.”

Representatives of Kazakh and Kyrgyz Red Crescent societies it was important that migrants understood the laws of the country in which they intend to stay. As a minimum, it was suggested to supply the migrants with the necessary information leaflets on departure from the country or at the entrance to the destination country.

The meeting was also attended by representatives of Estonia and Turkmenistan; countries which do not experience large number of citizens leaving but who nevertheless want to prepare for future developments.

The meeting concluded that in order to provide effective assistance to migrants, the National Societies and movement partners like IFRC and ICRC must continue to establish practical mechanisms and exchange information. Such mechanisms include: common information materials for migrants in different languages, tracing service, and accompanying migrants when needed and possible.