Project report: Baku Volunteer Center, Azerbaijan
Grantee: Baku-Volunteer Center, Azerbaijan
Project: “The plight of youth migrants during the COVID-19 and the impact of the pandemic on circular migration in Azerbaijan”
The Baku Volunteer Center implemented a project called “The situation of young migrants during the COVID-19 period and the results of the impact of the pandemic on migration in Azerbaijan” supported by the BEARR Trust’s 2022 Small Grants Scheme.
The project was carries out in the Gobustan, Shamakhi, Atsu, and Ismayilli districts of Shirvan regions, and also in Baku. We are still planning the continuation of the project, which will cover other groups of migrants. Experienced trainers with international experience were invited to take part in the project.
As part of their project, Baku Volunteer Centre held eight training sessions with 250 participants – including NGO leaders, IDPs, migrant women and migrant students – to raise awareness about the COVID-19 pandemic, human rights, migrants’ women rights, legislation, gender-based violence and the governmental response.
We are pleased that as the main financial supporter of the project, The BEARR Trust contributed to the development of Azerbaijan through its help in awareness-raising among young migrants and assisting their return to normal life, reintegration into society and more.
The project turned out to be very interesting and important to migrants who needed information during the pandemic. The pandemic exacerbated the already precarious situation of refugees and migrants. However, some of the challenges these groups faced during the pandemic also stemmed from their inability to access reliable information. This, in turn, led to sharp negative consequences in the process of migration.
That is why we considered this project a worthy one, and we tried to focus on the problems of young migrants. The main challenge for this group of people is the fact that they do not know how to overcome their difficult circumstances themselves.
During COVID-19, many people and vulnerable populations experienced the greatest degree of socioeconomic marginalisation and required special attention, including young migrants.
COVID-19 created many problems among the population of Azerbaijan, as well as the whole world, one of which was the impact of COVID-19 migration. A certain percentage of the population of Azerbaijan migrated to countries near and far, trying to feed their families through their own labour.
Every day we see how poor people are forced to leave their homes in search of an opportunity to meet their basic needs, not relying on safety regulations.
Taking into account the interests of migrants, regardless of their legal status, in the implementation of measures against COVID-19 was not only necessary to reduce the impact of the pandemic on them but also important for the public welfare of the country. Therefore, national plans should take into account the particular vulnerability of migrants to COVID-19. Experience shows that greater respect for human rights strengthens the protection of displaced civilians, which helps prevent and reduces forced displacement.
It often happens that the physical and mental health of displaced persons deteriorates due to their living conditions. They may lose their independence, live in danger, face serious health problems and be more likely to be victims of violence. In the long term, this may negatively affect their participation in economic activity, which makes it important for host countries to take measures to provide them with a higher level of protection, allowing displaced people to return to a decent life and get a job, making a useful contribution to the development of the economy of their countries.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, many people were unable to work in the countries to which they migrated; the pandemic made it impossible for them to work. In some cases, the expulsion of migrant workers has been justified by public health laws, branding them as carriers of COVID-19 upon return, and placing them in mandatory quarantine, often resulting in lengthy isolation.
The pandemic led to the sudden return and repatriation of migrant workers without systems and protocols in place to ensure safe repatriation or to share the burden of return and quarantine costs between countries of origin, countries of destination, and employers. This led to a further decline in the incomes of many of the migrant workers interviewed.
All these disagreements affected the fate of Azerbaijani migrants. In conclusion, it is safe to say that NGOs in Azerbaijan were not prepared for the pandemic. Thanks to our implementation of various projects, as well as the project funded by the BEARR Trust, it was possible to prevent the uncertainty that migrants could experience if there were problems with their legal status.
Migrants often find themselves in difficult situations. The measures taken by NGOs and migration authorities during the period of COVID-19 in Azerbaijan kept the protection of the rights and freedoms of migrants in focus, were carried out transparently, with a commitment to international legal obligations and in accordance with the country’s development priorities based on national interests.
A round table discussion with regional authorities and and local municipalities governments to discuss problems related to the pandemic and migration.
Activities in this direction will continue in the future. The project will be implemented in rural in other regions of Azerbaijan. As part of the project, we will in future continue to conduct awareness-raising activities for those who have returned from migration or are preparing to migrate in the future.
Author contact details
Sabina Jabrayilov, Director Baku Volunteer Center