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Some 2,000 Uzbek Migrants Stranded In Kazakhstan Allowed To Cross Border, Head Home

Thousands of Tajik and Uzbek migrant workers have been stranded in Kazakhstanin recent weeks, because they are unable to travel home due to restrictions imposed to combat the coronavirus. pandemic.

SARYAGHASH, Kazakhstan -- Some 2,000 Uzbek migrant workers stranded in Kazakhstan for weeks have been allowed to enter Uzbekistan.

The governor of Kazakhstan’s southern Saryaghash district, Mukhit Otarshiev, told RFE/RL on July 9 that the migrants left the Zhibek Zholy (Silk Road) checkpoint at the Kazakh-Uzbek border overnight.

Otarshiev added that, by the evening of July 8, the number of Uzbek migrant workers gathered at the checkpoint had reached 3,400, of whom some 2,000 were now on their way home.

"Today, 500 more Uzbek nationals will leave the site and travel back to Uzbekistan. Uzbek Embassy officials promised us that by the end of the day today, the remaining Uzbek citizens will be allowed to enter Uzbekistan," Otarshiev said.

"More than 900 Uzbek citizens remain at the checkpoint now but more Uzbek migrants from Kazakhstan’s regions continue to arrive at the site, hoping to return home," Otarshiev added.

Tajik Embassy officials told RFE/RL that some 50 Tajik migrant workers are also at the checkpoint awaiting permission to enter Uzbekistan en route to their homeland.

The embassy officials added that on July 3 some 700 Tajik citizens left the Zhibek Zholy checkpoint for Tajikistan via Uzbekistan.

In recent weeks, thousands of Tajik and Uzbek migrant workers were stranded in Kazakhstan’s southern region of Turkistan because they were unable to travel back home due to restrictions imposed to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The majority of those stranded at the Zhibek Zholy checkpoint were male labor migrants who lost their jobs in Kazakhstan and Russia after many businesses shut down following lockdown measures.

Some of them told RFE/RL that they had been waiting outdoors for weeks for Uzbekistan to open the border crossing.

Local residents in Kazakhstan and humanitarian organizations have assisted the stranded migrant workers, providing them with food and water for weeks.

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