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An intergovernmental organization established in 1951, IOM is committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society.

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Capital Astana
Population (2013): 16.4 million
Area:  2,724,900 km sq
Languages :  Kazakh, Russian
Currency:  Tenge (KZT)
GDP per Capita PPP  (2013): USD 23,206
HDI Rank (2013): 70 of 187
Remittances (2013 estimate):  USD 221 million
Net Migration Rate (2010-2015):     0 migrants/1,000 population
Immigrants (2013):  21.1%
Women as a Percentage of Immigrants  (2013): 50.7%
Population under 15 (2013): 26%
Sources and Definitions

Kazakhstan plays an important role in the cluster of Central Asian countries. It is also significant in the context of migration dynamics in the region.

Across Central Asia, people are engaged in a variety of movement – temporary, long term and permanent. A significant proportion of the population engages in seasonal migration to either the Russian Federation or Kazakhstan. Others are long-term or permanent migrants. Kazakhstan acts as a sending, transit and a receiving country: it receives migrants from other Central Asian countries, but it also sends migrants to the Russian Federation and Europe. Migrants heading for Russia and further Europe transit through Kazakhstan. At the same time in Central Asia all countries experience a high level of unregulated intra-regional and internal migration.

While a large proportion of migrants in Central Asia are driven by labour factors, the nature of migration is mixed and Central Asia also receives refugees and asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Eastern China. Due to their (often irregular) status, migrants often face various kinds of human rights abuses such as discrimination, denial of access to basic education, health services and decent working conditions. Furthermore, corruption among unscrupulous law enforcement officials, poverty, exploitation and separation from regular partners all contribute to marginalization and high vulnerability of the migrant population.

Central Asian migration dynamics could be characterized through the following key trends:

  • Large-scale labour migration. Up to 27% of the population of Uzbekistan, 18% of the population of Tajikistan and 14% of the population of Kyrgyzstan are labour migrants. Most labour migrants are men, and over 50% do menial work.
  • Significant human trafficking issues. Internationally, most human trafficking takes place to Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, Turkey and the Emirates but routes exist to China, Ukraine, the Middle East and South East Asia. A high degree of internal human trafficking also exists in Central Asia. The vast majority of this trafficking is labour trafficking.
  • Change in migration patterns due to political instability. Political instability exists in some Central Asian countries, and is particularly noticeable in the Ferghana Valley. This, combined with tribal and ethnic issues, changes migration patterns.
  • High degree of internal migration. Data about internal migration is difficult to obtain, especially given the generally limited capacity of Central Asian governments in managing migration. However, a high degree of internal migration has been observed in all Central Asian countries.
  • Movement away from seasonal migration. Historically, migration in Central Asia had a strongly seasonal nature. However, as a result of the economic crisis, seasonal employment is no longer easily available. In order to compensate for loss of income, migrants appear to be moving in more chaotic patterns.
  • Increasing migration for family reasons. Migrants move, not only for economic or political reasons, but also to unify with their families and communities. Such family-based migration has been increasing in recent years.
  • Increased ecological migration. Over the last 20 years, Central Asian countries such as Kyrgyzstan experienced higher-than-average changes in average temperatures and it is predicted that the effects of climate change will be severe in this region. National environmental authorities predict an increase in natural disasters such as floods, landslides and mudslides. In addition, several man-made ecological disasters, such as toxic waste from uranium mining, exist in Central Asia. These factors increase both internal and external migration in the region.

In the Central Asian context Kazakhstan, due to its geographical location and more stable economic situation, has become a popular destination and transit country of migrant workers and other categories of people on the move.

Official estimates put the population of Kazakhstan at 16,433,000 as of January 2011, of which 46% is rural and 54% urban population. According to the statistics, main flows of migrant workers in the Republic of Kazakhstan come from the Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, attracted by growing salaries and demand for workers. Unfortunately, due to a restricted legal framework for foreign employment, most labour migrants work irregularly. In mid-2006, the government developed regularization for certain categories of labour migrants. This initiative, however, in long term, has not brought legal status and protection to the majority of labour migrants in Kazakhstan.

The country is also marked by the high volume of internal migration: thousands of rural residents move to urban areas seeking for job opportunities many of them end up as victims of trafficking. Outside Kazakhstan main destination countries for Kazakh labour migrants are the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

Key constraints here include variable levels of political will; poor understanding by stakeholders of the migration-development link and of the impact of social, demographic, political and economic dynamics in the region, limitations in migration management capacity and inadequate legal and social framework to protect migrants, particularly their human rights.

To address these issues and to ensure coherence and long-term sustainable solutions, IOM has implemented a unified management approach to the Central Asian countries with IOM Astana (Kazakhstan) as Central Asia Coordination Office. This approach has allowed IOM to increase the capacities of individual missions in terms of fundraising, operability, accountability, transparency and professionalism. It also helps the Regional Office to manage and oversee programmes, enabling IOM to increase its capacity in Central Asia while decreasing operational costs.

In Kazakhstan IOM have offices in two locations. The main office located in the capital city of Astana is the Central Asia Coordination Office with coordination function over five Central Asian Republics (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan). IOM Almaty is the main hub for resettlement and operations programmes for the cluster of Central Asian states.

IOM’s regional programming promotes improved co-ordination and coherence on cross-border issues and leverages the competitive advantage of IOM’s field presence in all five Central Asian countries. In addition, IOM’s regional programming allows it to engage in close, co-ordinated co-operation with a variety of governments and civil society organizations. This co-ordination has led to a strong track record of delivering results.

IOM Kazakhstan, as a part of Central Asian cluster, operates around the key areas of focus: 1) Migration for Development; 2) Facilitating Migration; 3) Regulating Migration; and 4) Forced Migration. IOM further integrates cross-cutting issues, including Migration and Health, Policy and Dialogue, Data Collection and Research, Environmental Degradation and Migration, Migrants’ Rights, Gender and Migration and HIV/AIDS. These cross-cutting issues are mainstreamed throughout.

Regulating Migration

Central Asia Regional Migration Programme


Central Asia Regional Migration Programme concerns labour migration, which has played a key part in reducing poverty levels in Central Asia. This is particularly so in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan. Most communities in rural areas in these countries are affected by migration, mainly to the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan.

The overall objective of the programme is to contribute to poverty reduction in Central Asia through the improved livelihoods of migrant men and women.

Its specific programme purpose is to protect the rights and enhance the social and economic opportunities of migrants, their families and societies.

In Kazakhstan the programme aims to facilitate regular migration and to reduce irregular migration patterns by strengthening partnerships among the public authorities and local NGOs to manage the migration based on policy of respecting the rights of migrant workers and their dependants and reducing irregular migration flows.

Specifically, this programme will focus on addressing the following set of inter-linked issues:

  • Improvement of evidence based policies and legal framework for labour migration;
  • Gender mainstreaming;
  • Capacity building for state agencies to deal with labour migration and building understanding of the direct link between labour migration and development
  • Support to facilities to provide services for labour migrants
  • Development of integration strategies and tackling intolerance against Central Asian labour migrants at local levels.

The following actions will be taken under each of the outputs to contribute to the overall objective and programme purpose:

Output 1: Support for the consistent collection and sharing of gender disaggregated data; analytical support and policy advice; strengthening legal base and capacity building for migration officials;

Output 2: In close cooperation with EURASEC organization of a regional platform for high-level dialogue on migration; expert advice; assistance in development and effective implementation of bilateral agreements on labour migration;

Output 3: Establishing Migrants’ Support Centres and assistance to migrants; information campaign; strengthening coordination of migrants’ assistance mechanism;

Output 4: Facilitation of partnership of state authorities and civil society at municipal level; media campaigns; development of local level social integration strategies.

Counter-trafficking: Combating Trafficking in Human Beings: Prevention, Protection, Prosecution


Within the regional programme Combating Trafficking in Persons in Central Asia, IOM co-operates with the network of NGOs in Kazakhstan, jointly implementing training programme addressing human trafficking issues in 16 regions of the country and disseminate information material on the risks of human trafficking and irregular migration. IOM Kazakhstan and its partner NGOs also organize roundtables involving local entrepreneurs to discuss the social responsibility of business to prevent trafficking and to educate the participants about penalties and punishments.

The national project “Strengthening Cooperation between the Government and NGOs in Combating Trafficking in Persons” focuses on the development of printed materials to be distributed among the target audiences, namely those at-risk of being trafficked from and within Kazakhstan as well as those who are at-risk of being trafficked to and through Kazakhstan.

IOM Kazakhstan continues operating the toll-free hotline, gradually turning over all operations to a qualified partner NGO.

Besides the prevention activities, IOM together with its partner NGOs fulfills the protection component by rendering return, rehabilitation and reintegration services to victims trafficked to, from and within Kazakhstan.

IOM also supports two shelters for trafficking victims in Almaty and Kokshetau as well as provides support to victims of trafficking – residents of the state-funded shelter in the capital city of Astana.

On the policy level, IOM advocates for state financial support to NGOs providing direct assistance for victims of trafficking and especially shelters for victims of trafficking. This is done through policy advice and expert support for improvement of national legislation. In cooperation with relevant authorities, international organizations and NGOs, IOM conducts series of roundtables, seminars and policy debate on combating trafficking in persons.

In 2010 IOM started a training programme for labour inspectors across Kazakhstan. This intervention aims at increasing labour inspectors’ awareness of human trafficking, specifically labour exploitation, and developing labour inspectors’ skills to identify victims of trafficking, in particular foreign victims of labour trafficking, during their inspection visits.

It is also expected that the joint training for Migration Police, Criminal Police, Departments of Labour and Social Protection and NGOs will also play an important role in helping the governmental authorities, non-governmental organizations and law enforcement to establish cooperation on local level to assist and refer identified victims of trafficking.

Main Projects

  • Combating Trafficking in Persons in Central Asia
  • Strengthening Cooperation between the Government and NGOs in Combating Trafficking in Persons
  • Trafficking in Persons in Kazakhstan: Building Capacity of Labour Inspectors to Combat Trafficking in Persons

Combating Irregular Migration through Research and Support to the Border Services of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan

This project aims to support the Border Authorities of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in combating irregular migration through technical assistance and capacity building activities.

The programme aims to contribute to establishing conditions for improved passage through Kaplanbek border checkpoint and for the systematic upgrade of professional skills of border personnel of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The project focuses on upgrading of passport control infrastructure at Kaplanbek checkpoint in southern Kazakhstan as well as on refurbishment of the training facility for Kyrgyz Border Authorities in Bishkek. Cross border inter-agency training for border controllers and customs officers from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan aims to familiarize participants with the most recent techniques of border inspection.

Through its activities the project is meant to foster the exchange of information between border officials of both countries as well as for sharing international expertise and experience.

Capacity Building to Border Authorities through Technical Assistance and Skills Training

Donors & Partners

IOM intervention in the field of capacity building starts from comprehensive needs assessment conducted during field trips to border crossing points. Findings of the on-the-spot rapid assessment allow the crafting of follow-up assistance interventions.

IOM supports the Military Institute under the National Security Committee in upgrading its educational capacity. Assistance is provided to class rooms of the canine and border control departments of the Institute in the form of construction works, refurbishment and equipping as well as production of educational tools (manuals and handbooks) on different aspects of border control.

In parallel, together with partner agencies, IOM conducts, on regular basis, skills training for front line border officers, facilitating exchange of experience and upgrading their professional skills.

Facilitating Migration

IOM’s initiatives in the field of Facilitating Migration include a wide range of movement/resettlement assistance including pre-consular services for citizens applying for visas at the Canadian Embassy in Moscow and implementation of the US Refugee Admissions Programme (USRAP) in Kazakhstan.

Migrant Processing and Assistance


IOM Kazakhstan (Astana and Almaty offices) provides pre-consular services to people residing in Kazakhstan applying for a Canadian visa to the Canadian Embassy in Moscow.

Main Project

  • Service programme for persons residing in Kazakhstan who wish to apply for Canadian visa to the Canadian Embassy in Moscow

Refugee Processing and Assistance

IOM Kazakhstan participates in the US Refugee Admissions Programme (USRAP) funded by the Department of State/ Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (DOS/PRM), which is one of the largest continuing activities of IOM, currently operating in over 40 countries. The USRAP is aimed at processing and resettlement of applicants under multiple eligibility criteria, including refugees, referred by UNHCR, refugees who apply directly under Priority 2 and refugees eligible for family reunification. IOM Kazakhstan activity under USRAP include: processing, medical, cultural orientation and movement services.

Migration Health Assessment


Since 2000 the IOM Almaty Medical Unit has been providing migration health assessment services for migrants and refugees before their resettlement to a country of destination. The Medical Unit has been conducting medical screening for self-payer applicants and government-sponsored refugees.

The medical staff provides medical check-ups in Central Asia twice a year for refugees accepted for resettlement to the United States (US) and Canada. Besides pre-embarkation checks, IOM also provides the medical escort of US bound refugees, as well as the dispatch of medical files.

Main Project

  • Migration Health Assessments

Last updated
Main text: 23 February 2011
Facts and figures: September 2014

IOM Kazakhstan

Migration Initiatives