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International Organization for Migration (IOM)

IOM, established 1951, is an inter-governmental agency with its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. As of December 2002, IOM counts 98 Member States and 33 observer States, with more than 50 organizations holding observer status. Since it was set up, IOM has assisted over 12 million refugees and migrants to settle in over 125 countries. The Organization currently is working in some 165 offices in more than 80 countries.

IOM is committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society. As the leading international organization for migration, IOM acts with its partners in the international community to

  • assist in meeting the growing operational challenges of migration management,
  • advance understanding of migration issues,
  • encourage social and economic development through migration
  • uphold the human dignity and well-being of migrants.


In May 1993, the Kyrgyz Republic became an observer state of IOM and IOM opened its office in Bishkek in 1996 at the invitation of the Kyrgyz Government. In November 2000 at the 80th session of IOM the Kyrgyz Republic was unanimously accepted as a member state of the organization.

Since its creation, IOM has been working in the Kyrgyz Republic in areas in which its experience and expertise may be most immediately and usefully applied, such as border management, migration policies, legislation, labor migration and counter trafficking activities in human beings.


A Governmental Commission on the Improvement of Migration Management in the Kyrgyz Republic, a Ministerial level body that includes Legislative Deputies and NGO representatives, is chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and meets on a quarterly basis. This is an oversight body that meets to determine progress and future actions to be taken to fully implement this program. The Commission also has certain hands-on functions to ensure senior government level support for appropriate agencies, as well as to approve documents and further planning developed under the program.


Well-equipped and organized borders help prevent illegal migration, combat trafficking in human beings and provide updated data on the migration flows in and out of the country. In 2000, IOM equipped Manas International airport with computerized Inter Agency Migration Information System (IAMIS) that gathers information about people coming to and leaving the Kyrgyz Republic. IAMIS is connected to all ministries involved with migration issues. The information system is also connected to a blacklist, which permits border guards to prevent mala fide travelers entering the country. Recently, IOM extended this information system to Osh airport, and the border checkpoints at Torugart and Irkeshtam (land border with China). In collaboration with the US Embassy, IOM plans to continue this project and to equip the Kyrgyz railway checkpoints on the border between the Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan. In collaboration with the Government, IOM introduced new secure visas, which help combat with illegal migration and trafficking in human beings and are more difficult to forge. IOM is also providing English language training to border guards, which will help them welcome travelers and check documents more efficiently. IOM is planning to create an Inter Agency training center to provide international standards training (technical, language and human rights) to migration related personnel.


IOM is providing technical assistance, training and equipment to the Government of Kyrgyz Republic to establish an effective migration system. Technical assistance is given to the Government to create the appropriate legislative base ensuring its citizens the right of free movement, and the right to work abroad. Two significant laws have already been adopted:

  • 1. The Law “On External migration” (2000)
  • 2. The Law “On Internal Migration” (2002)

Currently, a working group under the KR Parliament is working on an additional draft Law “On External Labor migration”. This law will greatly improve the KR national legal base regulating the sphere of migration and define the legal status of different categories of migrants and ensure their rights and legal interests. Furthermore, it will develop international cooperation, conclude international treaties, and create conditions for effective external labor migration and integration into the international labor market.


A survey on internal migration was conducted jointly with the Kyrgyz Government. This research complemented that, conducted by IOM in 1999. Interviews were conducted in all regions of the state during the survey. More than 25 000 people were interviewed in all 7 oblasts of the country. Preliminary results show that the regions of Naryn and Talas are most affected and currently experiencing the biggest migration outflow. The final results are expected at the end of December 2002. II. Counter trafficking program

In accordance with its mandate, IOM identifies trafficking as occurring when:

A migrant is illicitly engaged (recruited, kidnapped, sold) and/or moved, either within national or across international borders

Intermediaries (traffickers) during any part of this process obtain economic or other profit by means of deception, coercion and/or other forms of exploitation under conditions that violate the fundamental human rights of migrants.

The objective of IOM is "to curtail migrant trafficking and to protect the rights of migrants caught up in the practice". In concert with the Government, IOM seeks solutions to solve the problem of trafficking in people through legislative reforms, public information and assistance to victims.


A public information campaign has been launched by IOM. It raises awareness of the dangers and consequences of trafficking among young, unemployed Kyrgyz and relevant authorities, in an effort to discourage and prevent trafficking in human beings in, from and through Kyrgyzstan. This information campaign helps empower the GoK implement the existing anti-trafficking plan of action. Two hotlines (in Bishkek and Osh) have also been opened, in order to inform people wishing to seek employment abroad about the potential risks and to assist victims of trafficking.


An IOM project on “Assistance to victims of trafficking in human beings” received funding in September 2002. Victims’ needs are often overlooked as a result of insufficient knowledge of how to assist them. By building capacity of private and civil organizations and improving the awareness knowledge of trafficking in human beings among the public, IOM hopes to promote humane treatment of victims and focus on re-integration of victims into society. Shelter for victims, where psychological assistance is available to them will be set up as part of the reintegration efforts.


IOM works with the General Prosecutor’s Office, and trains lawyers on counter-trafficking legislation, in order to protect the victims and prosecute traffickers.

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