United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Azerbaijan, 1 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8ba28.html [accessed 5 September 2015]
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At the end of 1997, Azerbaijan hosted some 244,000 refugees in need of protection, according to UNHCR. These included about 188,000 ethnic Azeri refugees from Armenia, 10,000 ethnic Azeri refugees from Georgia, and 46,000 Meshketian Turks who fled Uzbekistan in 1989. UNHCR also recognized 81 refugees, mainly from Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq, during the year. In addition, about 550,000 Azeris remained displaced within the country. Although Azerbaijan has signed the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol, it has no status determination procedure for asylum seekers originating from outside the Commonwealth of Independent States. The Azeri parliament was reportedly considering a draft refugee law during 1997 that would create a legal basis for receiving asylum seekers and refugees, but had passed no refugee legislation at year's end. A draft law on citizenship was also submitted to the parliament in 1997. Most refugees and displaced Azeris resettled in urban centers such as Baku, Gyandja, Ali-Bayramli, Sumgait, and Mingechevir. Their presence strained already overtaxed social-services, education, and health-care systems and hampered economic development. About 55,000 refugees and displaced persons live in camps, public buildings, and other temporary housing. Overcrowding and inadequate sanitary conditions in these accommodations have led to the spread of various infectious diseases. Since the end of 1994, an estimated 69,000 displaced Azeris have returned to regions bordering ethnic Armenian-controlled Nagorno Karabakh, mostly to the Fizuli and Agdam regions, according to UNHCR. At the end of 1997, the Azeri government reportedly had plans to return about 36,000 displaced persons to these areas. Negotiations for resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that might enable displaced persons to return to their home areas made little progress in 1997. A U.S. congressional ban on aid to the Azeri government remained in force in 1997. The ban did not apply to humanitarian aid to NGOs. But because local NGOs lacked the capacity to provide a full range of humanitarian services, the aid ban did affect humanitarian assistance, especially health care, which is completely state-run.