Discussion Papers

No.394 A Note on Ethnic Return Migration Policy in Kazakhstan: Changing Priorities and a Growing Dilemma

by OKA Natsuko

March 2013


This paper offers a brief analysis of the legal aspects of the ethnic return migration policy of Kazakhstan, a post-Soviet Central Asian state that has been active in seeking ties with its diaspora since independence. This paper examines the definition of oralman (repatriates) and the establishment of a quota on the number of Kazakh immigrants who are eligible for government funds to show how the rationale and preferences in repatriation policy have changed over the years. By focusing on changes in migration-related legislation in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the paper notes that two key goals of Kazakhstan’s migration policy are not necessarily consistent with each other: the promotion of an ethnically based nation-building project by encouraging the “return” of co-ethnics living abroad, and building a workforce that is best suited for the development of the state’s economy.

Keywords: ethnic return migration, migration law, quota system, Kazakhstan

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