Thu, 06 Aug 2020

SARYAGHASH, Kazakhstan -- Almost 2,000 Tajik and Uzbek citizens are stranded in Kazakhstan's southern region of Turkistan because they are unable to travel back home due to restrictions imposed to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The majority of those stranded at the Zhibek Zholy (Silk Road) checkpoint are male labor migrants who lost their jobs in Kazakhstan after many businesses shut down following lockdown measures.

Some of them told RFE/RL that they have been waiting for Uzbekistan to open the border crossing for more than a week.

They complained that they have to stay outdoors and that the weather is very hot during the daytime and cold at night.

A representative of Tajikistan's embassy in Kazakhstan, who was standing near four large tents that had been set up at the site to accommodate Tajik nationals, refused to comment on the matter.

An Uzbek Embassy official, Bahtiyor Kamalov, was also at the site. He said the authorities were not opening the border because many individuals who had entered Uzbekistan from Kazakhstan remained in quarantine inside the country.

Kamalov added that some 1,500 Uzbek citizens stranded at the border will be transferred to Uzbekistan 'soon.'

Kazakh border guard officials said they would allow Uzbek and Tajik citizens to cross the border when their Uzbek colleagues allow it.

On June 19, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told RFE/RL it had organized transportation by bus to repatriate 635 Tajik citizens stranded at the Zhibek Zholy checkpoint.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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