November 14, 2023

Erkinbek Kamalov

War in Ukraine: How It's Affecting Kyrgyz Migrants in Russia?

War in Ukraine: How It's Affecting Kyrgyz Migrants in Russia? Go West, Young Man

On November 14th, the 'Mekendeshter' (Compatriots) Summit took place in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Hundreds of individuals based in foreign countries once again visited their homeland to discuss how they could contribute their expertise to support their country and how their country could assist migrants, including labor migrants. Meanwhile, nearly one-third of the Kyrgyz population is dispersed across dozens of countries, working and studying, ranging from the USA, Europe, Turkey, Russia, South Korea, to Japan.
However, how is the Russian invasion of Ukraine affecting Kyrgyz labor migrants in Russia? Russia remains the primary destination for labor migrants from Central Asian countries, including Kyrgyzstan. Yet, Kyrgyz labor migrants are exploring new destinations, particularly in western countries.

According to the Ministry of Labor, Social Security, and Migration (MLSSM), the number of Kyrgyz migrants working in Russia decreased by almost 180,000, or 30 percent, in the last nine months. Additionally, the number of people registered for migration decreased by 60%.

Conversely, the number of Kyrgyz citizens studying and working in Turkey, Germany, and Kazakhstan has increased. MLSSM reported this based on official information from the Kyrgyz Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ongoing economic consequences of Russia's invasion of Ukraine are reshaping Kyrgyz migration patterns, with many migrants now aiming for the USA, Europe, and highly developed Asian countries.

The flow of migrants returning from Russia to Kyrgyzstan increased due to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Some Kyrgyz families who had worked in Russia for a decade left their jobs and returned to Kyrgyzstan. According to the Ministry of Labor, Social Security, and Migration, the migrant workforce in Russia decreased from over 587,000 at the beginning of 2023 to 408,448 during that year – nearly a 30 percent decline.

Furthermore, the Ministry indicated fluctuations in the migration register numbers, noting instances where the same person may be registered multiple times, potentially inflating the figures. The data was based on information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Below are the comparative figures for the number of people residing in various countries between 2022 and 2023:

USA: 2022 - 50,000 people, 2023 - 60,000 people (an increase of 10,000)
Canada: 2022 - 6,000 people, 2023 - 6,000 people (remained the same)
United Kingdom: 2022 - 5,700 people, 2023 - 6,000 people (an increase)
Germany: 2022 - 9,050 people, 2023 - 12,500 people (an increase)
Russia: 2022 - 587,089 people, 2023 - 408,448 people (a decrease)
Turkey: 2022 - 26,011 people, 2023 - 61,500 people (significant increase)
United Arab Emirates: 2022 - 5,500 people, 2023 - 6,000 people (an increase)
South Korea: 2022 - 8,500 people, 2023 - 9,400 people (an increase)
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan

Long Road to the "American Dream"? The challenging economic situation in Kyrgyzstan and the unpredictable, unstable political climate in Russia, stemming from its war in Ukraine, are prompting thousands of Kyrgyz migrants to choose the perilous route to the USA through Mexico in pursuit of their "American Dream." They risk their lives, sometimes falling prey to criminal cartels and human traffickers while illegally crossing international borders. However, numerous Kyrgyzstani residents have fallen victim to fraudsters claiming to represent foreign companies offering visas and employment, resulting in significant financial losses. These scammers primarily operate through social media channels. While job scams have existed for some time, government officials and experts warn that fake companies and fraudsters have proliferated in recent months following the subsiding of the coronavirus pandemic. As for those Kyrgyz nationals who are already living in the USA, most Kyrgyz living in the United States are based in Chicago. But many citizens of Kyrgyzstan do not register with the Kyrgyz consulate in the United States, although registration is inexpensive. Many compatriots do not register due to misinformation. They have false information that in case of any violations on their part, the consulate will transfer the migrant’s data to the relevant authorities. The Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic in the USA needs to carry out explanatory work and disseminate correct information on consular registration

14 November 2023

Erkinbek Kamalov