Regional Conference on Refugee Protection and International Migration in Central Asia
Kazakhstan on March 15-16, 2011 hosted the latest in a series of regional conferences on refugee protection and international migration. The meeting in Almaty examined the protection challenges that mixed migratory movements pose in the Central Asia region, and collaborative approaches to address them based on existing good practices.
The government of Kazakhstan hosted the conference, which was jointly organized by UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also provided support for the event, which was funded by the European Commission.
Representatives from governments, international agencies and civil society discussed a wide range of topics, including managing borders while ensuring refugee protection; addressing the different needs of people on the move; strengthening the integration of refugees, stateless people and minorities; developing legal migration opportunities; and preventing people trafficking and protecting the victims, especially children.
Representatives from the five Central Asian republics - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - attended the meeting, alongside delegates from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Iran, the Russian Federation and Turkey.
Migratory movements form part of Central Asia's history. Today, population movements are dominated by labour migration, but forced displacement is also still a problem in some areas. The region hosts many refugees from Afghanistan and from countries in other regions.
As last year's violence in Kyrgyzstan and ensuing population movements showed, internal conflict remains a threat. Statelessness is another major protection challenge in the region, while trafficking in people is also a matter of growing concern.
The regional conference in Almaty aimed at creating a fuller understanding of the nature, scale and reasons for mixed migration in the region; gathering good practices; and allowing states, civil society and international organizations to devise strategies on how to respond to these movements in an effective, coordinated and protection-sensitive manner.
It is the fifth in a series of regional gatherings on refugee protection and international migration. The others were held in Yemen (May 2008), Senegal (November 2008), Costa Rica (November 2009) and Tanzania (September 2010).