UNHCR can use Azerbaijan’s experience in protecting rights of IDPs, refugees

By: Sara Rajabova

UN High Commissioner for Refugees has applauded what the Azerbaijani government is doing for refugees and IDPs.

Henrik Nordentoft, the deputy director of the division of program support management in UNHCR headquarters in Geneva made the remark at a meeting with Ali Hasanov, Azerbaijani deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Committee on Refugees and IDPs in Baku on October 29, AzerTac state news agency reported.

“Work carried out for refugees and IDPs in Azerbaijan is exemplary,” he said.

Nordentoft noted that UNHCR is interested in using Azerbaijan’s experience in many areas such as the strengthening of the protection of rights and social security of IDPs and refugees.

Over the years, the Azerbaijani government together with international community has provided significant resources towards the improvement of overall living conditions for this group of population. In 2007 the last IDP camp in the country (12 camps in total) was eliminated.

However, despite the enormous efforts made by the government, the total solution of the problems is still very difficult to achieve, as about 400,000 IDPs continue to live under difficult conditions in old and unsuitable houses.

Hasanov said the number of IDPs exceeds the number of refugees, stressing the problem of IDPs is a more serious one.

“There are many gaps with respect to the way the problems of refugees are addressed at the international level. That is why a general convention addressing the problems of IDPs should be created,” he said.

The number of Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs from the Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenia is above one million. Given its 9.7 million population, Azerbaijan has one of the largest per capita IDP and refugees’ burden in the world.

Hasanov further touched upon the activity of the OSCE Minsk Group, which mediates solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, saying “they have achieved no tangible result so far”.

The bloody war, which flared up in the late 1980s due to Armenia’s territorial claims against its South Caucasus neighbor, left 700,000 civilians of Nagorno-Karabakh and the regions adjoining it, as well as the regions bordering with Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh without homes.

Moreover, 250,000 Azerbaijanis were expelled from Armenia and became refugees due to Armenia’s ethnic cleansing policy after the emergence of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan.

The Azerbaijanis who had displaced from their homes as result of the brutal war were forced to live in refugee camps in very difficult conditions.

Large-scale hostilities ended with a Russia-brokered ceasefire in 1994 but Armenia continued the occupation in defiance of four UN Security Council resolutions calling for immediate and unconditional withdrawal.