It pains me to talk about my trip to my homeland in Turkmenistan. I am a Turkmen migrant living in Turkey since 2018. My son was born in 2020 during the pandemic. The main reason I went to Turkmenistan was to get a passport for my son. The story of the trip began after the authorities of Turkmenistan opened the borders, which were closed due to the pandemic. After I decided to leave, I contacted an official I know in Turkmenistan. Corruption still exists there, and we agreed that I would pay a certain amount ($3,500) to make my trip go smoothly and get my problems resolved quickly. Then I started looking for airlines and tickets. With the opening of borders, previously closed for more than 2 years, I found that there were no tickets for the next two months. This is an obstacle, but then I found out that some people find tickets for the right dates. On the Internet, I found people selling seats on a plane to anyone on any date. Instead of $405, I had to pay $600, and I also had to take a separate ticket for my son.
I was very worried because I was going to visit my homeland for the first time after 4 years. The long-awaited day has come, we safely flew to Turkmenistan. Since air flights have not yet been fully established, international flights are carried out not in the capital, but in the regions. My plane landed in the city of Turkmenbashi in the Balkan region. As soon as we got off the plane, we had to take a COVID test. There were no exchange offices at the airport, no small cafes, or at least telephone points, the airport was in a very poor condition. After asking other passengers, I found 280 manats, paid for a COVID test. I had to borrow a phone from them to inform my relatives about my arrival in Turkmenistan. After passing the test, we were told that the result would be ready in 3 hours. We spent 3 hours in a quiet, stuffy room without food and water. After a while, a fast food cart pulled up. My child was very hungry, I bought something and as usual I checked the expiration date and saw that the product had already expired. I got very angry, then I noticed a man in a uniform standing a little further away and asked: “Excuse me, what airport is this? There is nothing to breathe here, nowhere to eat. And food products are sold with an expired shelf life..." The man in official uniform grinned and sarcastically replied: "By your next visit, we will correct the situation, but for now you will manage with what you have." I was shocked, not knowing how to respond to the anger that had engulfed me. 4 hours passed, and the tests, which were supposed to be ready in 3 hours, were still not ready, there was no final answer, and incoming passengers were still being kicked out of the airport. Our flight to Ashgabat was scheduled for 21:00 the same night, the check-in for the flight was about to begin, we were already late for the plane. Most of the passengers were supposed to board this flight, so the boarding was delayed by 1 hour, which was a bit of a relief for us. But I could not understand why we should take the test, because we already passed it in Turkey. Have we had infected in the air?
Surprise! Whatever it was, we safely arrived in Ashgabat, passed passport control, took a taxi to our village. My attempts to call abroad and tell them that we had arrived normally were unsuccessful. The internet doesn't work at all. The same with the application IMO: either there or not due to the poor quality of the Internet. My friends told me that if I download the VPN application on my phone, the Internet will work, so I went and downloaded a VPN for 600 manats, but it did not work in our village. Well, at least in the city the VPN worked at least a little. I was able to contact the house only when I arrived in the city.
With the help of my friend, I started to apply for a passport, and then I was going to visit my relatives. Having registered the child in the village, I went to receive Form 3, that is, a residence permit. I went to the office at 11:00 in the afternoon, but the office had already closed for a break, although the break time was indicated on the door from 13:00 to 14:00. I asked around and found out from the office workers the phone number of the official issuing the forms and called him. "Hello. When will you be at work? I came for my certificate." The person on the other end of the line said angrily, "I'm on my lunch break, I'll be back at 3:00 pm at my desk." I'm still amazed, these people don't take any responsibility! Awful... Finally the employee came and I got the form.
Having collected these documents, the next day I went to hand them over to the regional migration department. Of course, I had no problems with the migration as everything was pre-arranged, so I was told that my son's passport would be ready in 2 weeks.
Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights