Astana is rebooting a program to lure ethnic Kazakhs living abroad to move to Kazakhstan. Observers believe Astana’s revived interest in the program is motivated by a desire to limit Russia’s potential to meddle in Kazakhstani affairs.
Two years ago, the government suspended the “oralman” (returnee) program in the aftermath of fatal unrest in western Kazakhstan. The tumult was attributed in part to social discontent stemming from the mismanaged migration of Kazakhs from abroad.
The oralman program, in its original form, provided generous social and economic benefits to entice Kazakhs abroad to migrate to their titular homeland. Now, under new terms announced in April, perks to attract ethnic Kazakhs abroad are back on the table in the form of paid travel and subsidized housing: but to be eligible for the benefits, migrants are required to settle in government-selected areas.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.