November 09, 2020

Medical support programme for labour migrants in Moscow: interview with programme curator Saidnumon Mansurov

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The coronavirus pandemic is still raging, and the humanitarian crisis is deepening.  As always during the time of crisis, labour migrants are one of the most vulnerable segments of the population – they are now far from their homes and their native country.  Poor living conditions make them vulnerable to illness.  They cannot find a job without a test for coronavirus infection, which entails financial and other problems.  Many migrants do not feel comfortable and confident enough to seek help.  As a result – they resort to self-medication.

In the summer of 2020, the International Chodiev Foundation (ICF) launched a programme of medical support for labour migrants in Moscow and the Moscow region.  The programme is implemented jointly with the Representative Office of the Agency for External Labour Migration under the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations of the Republic of Uzbekistan in the Russian Federation.  This measure is one of the stages of ICF’s extensive charity programme to support Uzbek people in the face of a global pandemic.

Photo: Saidnumon Mansurov with a group of labour migrants before testing

We spoke to Mr Saidnumon Mansurov, Head of the Representative Office of the Agency for External Labour Migration under the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations of the Republic of Uzbekistan, and the curator of this programme: 

Could you please tell us about this project for Uzbek labour migrants in Russia. How did it all start and how is it going now?

Our medical project to help migrants in need of testing and treatment for coronavirus infection kicked off in early July.  Under the programme, labour migrants from Uzbekistan who have been in contact with, or live with those infected with COVID-19, as well as those having signs of SARS, are given the opportunity to undergo free testing for the presence of the disease and antibodies to infection.  That is, the test allows you to determine the presence of both the present and the past infection.  Migrants who test negative for infection or are positive for antibodies to coronavirus are issued an official medical certificate allowing them to return to work.  Now, due to the spread of the coronavirus epidemic, migrants without a certificate are not allowed to work.  Migrants who test negative, but who have the flu-like symptoms, can gain access to medical care and receive medicine.

As part of our programme, medical teams travel to facilities approved by our Representative Office – hostels and hostels, which normally house at least 15-20 migrants.  Those who wish to undergo testing alone in the clinic, can also do it and get their test paid for. Our goal is to prevent the spread of infection among the Uzbek migrants, and among those who are in contact with them.  We also want to prevent severe illness and death.

And what about those who test positive today?

Migrants with a coronavirus infection detected as a result of testing are quarantined and undergo further procedures in state medical institutions, in accordance with the sanitary and epidemiological rules of the Russian Federation.  Their condition is monitored throughout the treatment.  They are also provided with the necessary legal support, and the employment help when they get better.  We do not leave the migrants after they pass the test – if necessary, we provide other assistance.

We know that many migrants are not willing to seek qualified medical care.  What are the reasons for this?

The main reason why migrant workers are afraid to see a doctor, even with obvious symptoms of coronavirus infection, is, of course, the fear of losing their jobs.  Many simply prefer self-medication or choose to get better ‘on their feet’ – they avoid the official registration of the disease.  Of course, such perception does not happen completely out of the blue, the problem of job stability is very complex – it is necessary to work both with migrants and with employers in order to find a perfect solution.  This is one of the main activities of our Representative Office – labour migrants always need our help, and not only during a pandemic.  Now we are trying to convey to Uzbek migrants that this is the right decision to come to us for help, that a positive result for coronavirus is followed by support and help, and not dismissal.  This is especially important now – the second wave of the pandemic has begun. We can see that in some countries its scale exceeds even the most pessimistic forecasts. At the times like these timely testing is the responsibility of each of us.

Who, besides the Representative Office of the Agency for External Labour Migration, is involved in this project?

Our initiative was immediately supported by the International Chodiev Foundation (ICF), which became a partner of the programme. ICF’s Founder, Patokh Chodiev, is a well-known businessman, philanthropist, and a native of Uzbekistan.  As part of our cooperation agreement, ICF provides funding for the provision of medical services and the purchase of test kits and medicine.  Our organisation compiles the lists of labour migrants and sends them to medical institutions.  We also provide organisational and administrative support, as well as the employment support that I mentioned earlier.  I must say that ICF’s participation in this project is only one of the small parts of their extensive charitable programme to support the Uzbeks during the coronavirus epidemic, both in Uzbekistan and in Russia.

What are the results of the medical project to date?

Just a couple of hours after the announcement of the programme, more than fifty people immediately contacted us.  To date, we have tested hundreds of people.  Many of them have been able to return to their previous job or get a new one.  For example, after being tested, some people were offered a job at Yandex, and the Siberian Pelmeni company. Once we received a phone call, we did not know the name of the caller, but he said he was calling to say thank you for our work.  If we can help at least a few people, then it was worth taking on this project.

Thank you for the interview.

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