Last Updated: Monday, 15 September 2014, 10:25 GMT

Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Azerbaijan

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 19 April 2012
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Azerbaijan, 19 April 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f97fb68c.html [accessed 15 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Quick facts
Number of IDPsUp to 599,000
Percentage of total populationUp to 6.4%
Start of current displacement situation1988
Peak number of IDPs (Year)600,000 (1990)
New displacement0
Causes of displacementArmed conflict, deliberate policy or practice of arbitrary displacement, generalised violence, human rights violations
Human development index76

Armed conflict with Armenia over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh between 1988 and 1994 caused large numbers of people to flee within Azerbaijan. Located within the internationally recognised borders of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh's independence claim has not been recognised by any state other than Armenia. Together with seven surrounding districts, the area remains outside the effective control of Azerbaijan. In 2011, the peace process slowed dramatically, while border skirmishes continued.

Almost 600,000 people were still internally displaced in Azerbaijan at the end of 2011. About 50 per cent of them were female and ten per cent were older people. The figure included around 200,000 children born to males with IDP status since they had fled their homes. There was no new displacement during the year, but the return of IDPs remained a distant prospect. IDPs were divided between those who were more or less integrated in their community and planned to stay there, and those more isolated IDPs who continued to pin their hopes on return.

Over their 20 years of displacement, IDPs have achieved various degrees of well-being. A 2011 study showed their differing needs, and indicated that they were more vulnerable than their non-displaced neighbours in some situations, and in some not. For example, some IDPs had better access to social benefits, yet many lived in worse housing conditions. Smaller internally displaced communities in remote villages with no access to land were found to be the most vulnerable, particularly in terms of their housing, and their access to livelihoods and land, health care and personal documentation.

About 50 per cent of IDPs were in 2011 still living in dilapidated and overcrowded collective centres and makeshift accommodation. Others were staying in crowded conditions with relatives, living near the frontline with landmines and enemy fire, or squatting in vacant apartments or houses. Some IDPs, however, had managed to buy and improve their housing, while by the end of 2011, the government had resettled over 100,000 IDPs into new houses or apartments, including around 10,000 during the year. Overall, housing conditions for IDPs were generally worse than the general population, especially in villages and small towns.

Around 115,000 IDPs were living in private apartments or houses owned by others. Despite executive decrees barring their eviction without alternative living arrangements, their tenure continued to be insecure in 2011, particularly in the main cities of Baku and Sumgait. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2007 that the government's decrees in favour of IDPs had violated the property rights of homeowners. In 2011, the national courts ruled in about a dozen decisions that IDPs should be evicted from such dwellings, but the rulings were not enforced and no internally displaced families were evicted during the year.

IDPs were more likely to be poor and unemployed, partly because they lacked relevant skills. Some IDPs, most of them in Baku, had managed to establish livelihoods, but opportunities for IDPs in other towns and cities were limited by the lack of access to farm land and demand for informal labour. As a result, many IDPs continued to rely on benefits in 2011. Few internally displaced women earned an income and many had become more confined to the home since their displacement. As a result, the incidence of poverty remained significantly higher in 2011 among households headed by internally displaced women.

The government has made considerable and increasing efforts to improve the situation of IDPs. It has built housing and infrastructure, and provided cash transfers and subsidies. It continued to pay a monthly food allowance to IDPs in 2011, but the allowance was discontinued for about 70,000 state employees or people with only one internally displaced parent. An improved response would include collecting more accurate data on the vulnerabilities of IDPs, prioritisation of the needs of the most vulnerable among them, and more effective consultation with IDPs, especially on resettlement plans. Finally, the government should muster the will to resolve the conflict and work to ensure that IDPs can enjoy their rights at their preferred residence.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees visited Azerbaijan during the year and, while acknowledging the government's significant achievements, he called for increased assistance to IDPs. However, as the government's capacity to protect IDPs has increased and negotiation on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh has become deadlocked, support for humanitarian interventions has waned. At the same time, development support has picked up, with the World Bank making a $50 million loan in 2011, which together with a significant government contribution will fund activities to ensure that 185,000 IDPs have better housing and improved self-reliance.

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