Baku, October 7, AZERTAC
Head of the Department for the Problems of Refugees, IDPs and Migration of the Office of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Gurban Sadigov has addressed the 66th session of the Executive Committee of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees dedicated to Afghan refugees which was held in Geneva, Switzerland.
“The Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan is deeply concerned with the situation concerning the refugees in Afghanistan. The failure to find ways of solution for the long-term refugee problem in Afghanistan and obtain the desired outcome in this direction so far is the main issue disturbing the Azerbaijani side. Using the opportunity, we would like to stress that Azerbaijan highly evaluates the activities of the UNHCR in Afghanistan and fully supports it,” said Mr Sadigov.
”Approximately half of the over 1500 refugees and asylum-seekers registered at the Representative Office of the UNHCR in Azerbaijan (which used to be more than 11000 before) are the citizens of Afghanistan. Along with the activities of the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan to establish the conditions for their unimpeded entry to and stay in Azerbaijan, the office of the UNHCR operating in the country implements systematic programs for meeting their major needs, including the medical, education and other social services. The Afghans returning to their homes or sent to third countries for permanent settlement are also supported by the Government in compliance with the relevant procedures.”
“Further, I would like to note that 14 citizens of Afghanistan were given citizenship of the Republic of Azerbaijan by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Besides, on the basis of the temporary living permit 104 and of the permanent permit 84 Afghani citizens are living in the Republic of Azerbaijan,” Mr Sadigov said.
“Facing the grave complications of the IDP problem occurred in our country and still persisting as a result of the occupation of 1/5 of its internationally recognized territories by Armenia, 'Azerbaijan understands the graveness of the refugee problem that require quite complicated and complex approach facing the Afghanistan Government.
“Azerbaijan renders multifaceted assistance to this country within its capabilities, not remaining indifferent to the ongoing processes in Afghanistan and their consequences. The ADA University in Azerbaijan conducts, in addition to the NATO training courses, yearly management trainings for the officials from Afghanistan, the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) implements educational projects on mines, the Memorandum that is to ensure the four-year education of the citizens of Afghanistan in the Academy of the Ministry of Emergencies is on the signature phase, as well as we are carrying out the construction of school in Afghanistan. All the expenses related to the aforementioned directions are covered by Azerbaijan. The Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan increases its in kind contributions in the fields of education, training, infrastructure development, investments and financial aid, as well as supports Afghanistan's self-confidence,” he noted.
“We would like to stress particularly the fact that when approached in a comprehensive manner the successful future of Afghanistan depends also on the neighbouring states and in this regard, we must increase our joint efforts for successful realization of the process.”
“At the same time, I would like to highlight also a few points concerning the known events taking place regarding the refugees. The geographic expansion of the conflict zones all over the world in recent years has been accompanied by rapid increase of the number of people losing their lives and forced to leave their houses. The massive and unprecedented cases of migration from the war-torn Middle East and North Africa to Europe and death of many innocent people including women and children are quite shocking. Taking into account the current events, we would like to express our deep concern regarding the refugee crisis caused by armed conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. We are also concerned by the cases of religious intolerance, particularly the cases of Islamophobia and efforts to link religions with terrorism,” he added.
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Gurban Sadigov also took part in general discussions at the 66th session of the Executive Committee of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees dedicated to Afghan refugees.
The head of the department said: 'We believe that international community first of all has to prevent the occurrence of new armed conflicts and must seek efficient ways of solving the existing conflicts based on the generally accepted norms and principles of the international law, including the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. The strengthening of cooperation among various states and international organizations, such as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organization for Migration, International Committee of Red Cross as well as the relevant UN mechanisms in settlement of vulnerable people's problems is also a matter of great importance.”
“It should be noted that the persons crossing the international borders are protected by the norms defined in the international refugee law. However, the same principle is not applied to the IDPs, whose protection is not considered sufficiently and defined in the international law. The current international law has legal gap that is incapable of providing sufficient protection. That is, there is no obligatory document that could be applied to IDPs. We do believe, today may already be appropriate time for reviewing the development of the obligatory document based on the rules and norms reflected in the UN Guiding Principles on IDPs.”
Mr Sadigov said: “As known, the military aggression launched by Armenia against Azerbaijan has caused people to be displaced from their native lands; this problem is still awaiting its solution. As a result of the ethnic cleansing conducted by Armenia, the number of refugees and IDPs from the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent districts of the Republic of Azerbaijan exceeds approximately one million and two hundred thousand people. With its population of 9.7 million, Azerbaijan is amongst the world's countries carrying the highest IDP caseload in per capita terms. Along with this, due to its rapid economic development, Azerbaijan has become a target destination country for massive migrants from third countries. Unfortunately, the Armenian government is misusing the existing migration problem in the world and settling the Syrian refugees of Armenian origin in the occupied Azerbaijani territories. This is certainly a next step by Armenia aimed at the strengthening of the ethnic cleansing policy and the consequences of the military aggression continued against Azerbaijan.”
“The Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan has taken burden for all the problems of the people having been forced to leave their native lands. It has allocated significant resources for improvement of the general living conditions of this group of people in the recent years. In the past 20 years, approximately 6 billion USD has been spent on solving the social problems of IDPs in Azerbaijan. This has primarily resulted in better accommodations and significant decrease of the poverty among IDPs. In 2007, the last IDP tent camp in the country (totally 12 tent camps) was abolished. Our achievements aimed at strengthening of the social, education, medical and economic sustainability of the IDPs have been appreciated by various international organizations.”
He said: “Despite the huge efforts made by the Government, an overall solution of the IDP problem is still not possible. Up to date, 400 000 IDPs continue to live in an old and unsuitable houses under difficult conditions. The large volume and persistence of the IDP problem in the country has necessitated the support of international organizations and donors.”
“Full restoration of the human rights of IDPs requires the settlement of the conflict. Azerbaijan's position in this issue is quite clear: all the occupied Azerbaijani territories must be liberated from occupation and the rights of the IDPs to return to their homes and property with dignity must be ensured.”
“I would like to point out that the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan has developed a comprehensive Program titled "The Great Return" in cooperation with the international organizations that defines the voluntary return principle after settlement of the conflict and ensures return of people from the displaced life to the normal one. We express our hopes that necessary conditions will soon be created for implementation of that Program.
A perfect legal basis has been established in Azerbaijan for legal protection of refugees and IDPs. Azerbaijan hosts over 1500 refugees and asylum-seekers from other countries, half of which are from Afghanistan. The Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan in close cooperation with the UNHCR conducts purposeful work aimed at identification and application of continuous ways of solution for those people. The procedure for making relevant amendments in the legislation of the Republic of Azerbaijan for the purpose of applying additional patronage by the joint initiative of the UNHCR and State Migration Service has already started. The potential persons to benefit from the additional patronage opportunities in the Republic of Azerbaijan at present time are precisely the citizens of Afghanistan,” Mr Sadigov added.