Mitigating the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on migrants and their families from Central Asia .

Project completed

Migrants from CA and their families are severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Hundreds of thousands stranded in the RF without income or social protection. Their families are affected too, as they depend on remittances, which do not flow anymore due to the crisis. Contributing to the IOM response plan, Switzerland ensures that migration data gaps are addressed, that the most vulnerable migrants receive assistance, and that migrants’ families get increased access to digital remittances. 

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Central Asia
Migration generally (development aspects and partnerships)
Labour migration
01.08.2020 - 31.05.2021
CHF  1’000’000
Background Early preparedness measures for a Covid-19 outbreak have greatly impacted mobility and migration, and particularly the life of the numerous Central Asian labour migrants stranded in the RF, in Kazakhstan or at the borders. Lockdowns, travel bans, and social distancing have brought economic activities to a near standstill in all countries in the region. This exposes migrants to loss of employment and income, and leaves them in exacerbated situations of vulnerability, pushing them further into exploitative conditions and at risk of illness and discrimination. Remittances serve as lifeline for the migrants’ families and represent a significant share of the GDP in Central Asian countries. It will be important to keep the remittance flow in time of crisis, as the remittances’ decline, combined with the returns of migrants, are expected to place heavy social, economic and labor market burdens on countries of origin. 
Objectives To mitigate the socio-economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on migrants and their families and help governments of the Central Asian states and the Russian Federation (RF) address operational challenges of migration management in the current global health crisis situation.
Target groups

Direct beneficiaries

More than 1000 vulnerable women and men migrants from Central Asia stranded in destination and transit areas, mainly in the Russian Federation;

Migrants’ families left behind in the Central Asian countries of origin.

The Governments of Central Asia and of the Russian Federation, as well as various stakeholders (civil society organisations, private sector) involved in the immediate response to Covid-19 and in the mid-to-long term socio-economic recovery efforts, benefit through capacity-building and networking.

Medium-term outcomes

1.    Governments of CA and the RF implement targeted and evidence-based responses to the Covid-19 impacts on migrants and returnees.

2.   Protection and assistance needs of vulnerable migrants are mitigated and addressed.

3.   Central Asian and Russian policy-makers adapt their policies towards more financial inclusion through enhanced remittance digitalization.


Expected results:  

·       Reliable and actual data on the mobility, needs and vulnerabilities of stranded migrants in the RF are provided to decision-makers and orient further Covid-19 response and recovery measures.

·       Most vulnerable migrants in the RF receive direct assistance, are granted access to basic service, and are supported with voluntary return assistance, in close cooperation with their country of origin.

·       Labour migrants who wish to stay in the RF are supported in their search for alternative formal employment opportunities.

-    Comprehensive assessment on the supply of and demand for financial products by migrants and remittance recipients is available and will orient future (GPMD) programming.

Results from previous phases:   An impact assessment conducted by IOM in April 2020 has shown that appr.83% of the labour migrants staying in the RF or in Kazakhstan have either lost or had reduction in their income during the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of the migrants prefer to stay in the countries of destination in search for alternative job opportunities, even if the living conditions are worsening. The assessment has highlighted also that most of the labour migrants will no more be in a position to transfer money to their families in their countries of origin. It is to be anticipated that the decrease of remittances in Central Asia countries in 2020 will exceed the  global estimations of the Worldbank (20% decline).

Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Credit area Development cooperation
Project partners Contract partner
United Nations Organization (UNO)
  • International Organisation for Migration

Coordination with other projects and actors

Coordination among UN actors shall take place in Central Asia within UNCTs in the framework of the established Covid-19 frameworks, as well as among the UN Agencies working in the RF. Specific coordination and exchange of expertise is planned with the SDC supported UNCDF program on financial inclusion.

Coordination and synergies with other Swiss programs will be ensured with the involvement of the Swiss Representations in the region.

Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    1’000’000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    1’010’000
Project phases

Phase 1 01.08.2020 - 31.05.2021   (Completed)