United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Armenia, 1 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8bb50.html [accessed 6 December 2013]
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At the end of 1997, Armenia hosted nearly 220,000 refugees in need of protection, according to UNHCR. Almost all, some 218,000, came from Azerbaijan, about 14,000 of those from the disputed region of Nagorno Karabakh. Another 1,000 refugees came from the breakaway region of Abkhazia in Georgia, and 150 refugees came from Chechnya, in the Russian Federation. About 70,000 Armenians remained displaced from villages in areas bordering Azerbaijan at year's end. UNHCR recorded no new significant refugee arrivals or internal displacements during the year. Although the rate of Armenian emigration appeared to fall in 1997, up to one-third of Armenia's population has left Armenia in the last seven years, most to the Russian Federation. Since the May 1994 cease-fire between ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan government forces, 43,000 refugees have returned from Armenia to ethnic Armenian-controlled Nagorno Karabakh. About 30 asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Sudan, and Somalia registered asylum claims in Armenia during 1997, according to UNHCR. Although Armenia has agreed to consider applications for asylum, it issued no decisions on individual cases in 1997 because it has not formally established a status determination procedure. In December, the Armenian government submitted a draft refugee law to parliament to provide a legal framework for implementing the UN Refugee Convention, which Armenia signed in 1993. During 1997, UNHCR gradually transferred the responsibility for interviewing applicants and reviewing asylum claims to the Armenian government in anticipation of the government's making refugee status determinations. The Armenian national assembly passed a law on citizenship in October 1995 that will eventually allow all refugees who are permanent residents of Armenia to acquire citizenship. There is a three-year residence requirement from which ethnic Armenians are exempt. At the end of 1997, however, the government had not completed regulations to implement the law, and few refugees had gained Armenian citizenship. UNHCR nevertheless considers local integration as the durable solution for ethnic Armenian refugees in Armenia and is working with the Armenian government to facilitate their naturalization. Continued economic stagnation, high unemployment, low salaries, and an acute housing shortage made life difficult for most refugees in Armenia in 1997. Many still lived in communal centers, hostels, and trailer settlements. During 1997, UNHCR, international organizations, and governments provided food and housing to the most vulnerable among the refugee population.