U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Armenia
|Publisher||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants|
|Publication Date||20 June 2001|
|Cite as||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Armenia , 20 June 2001, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3b31e15d10.html [accessed 26 May 2017]|
|Disclaimer||This 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.|
At the end of 2000, more than 280,000 persons – virtually all ethnic Armenians who fled Azerbaijan during the 1988-1993 war over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh – were living in refugee-like circumstances in Armenia.
Of these, about 250,000 fled Azerbaijan-proper (areas outside Nagorno-Karabakh); approximately 30,000 came from Nagorno-Karabakh, which is located in Azerbaijan but controlled by Armenians. All were registered with the government as refugees at year's end.
However, the vast majority were eligible for Armenian citizenship, faced little or no threat of forced return to Azerbaijan, and had largely integrated in Armenia. Therefore, the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) no longer considers them to be refugees in need of protection, but rather persons living in "refugee-like" circumstances.
At year's end, the government recognized six non-ethnic Armenians as refugees – two Somalis, two Iraqis, one Sudanese, and one Azeri from Azerbaijan. Of these, five were granted refugee status during the year. No asylum cases were pending at year's end.
Some 60,000 Armenians displaced from villages bordering Azerbaijan since 1993 had integrated locally and were not receiving assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or the government at year's end. In addition, at least 35,000 ethnic Armenian refugees had returned to Nagorno-Karabakh since May 1994, when ethnic Armenian forces and Azerbaijan government forces signed a cease-fire agreement.
The government reported no significant refugee arrivals or internal displacements during the year. Armenia reportedly received no ethnic Chechens from the conflict in the nearby Russian republic of Chechnya, largely because of significant cultural differences between Chechens and Armenia's population.
During 2000, 6,590 Armenians sought asylum in European countries in 2000 – down from 8,560 in 1999.
Faced with few prospects for repatriating ethnic Armenian refugees to areas of Azerbaijan outside Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian National Assembly passed a law on citizenship in November 1995.
Under Article 10 of the law, ethnic Armenian refugees may apply to the Ministry of the Interior to obtain Armenian national passports and citizenship papers. Citizenship is granted automatically to eligible persons who request to be de-registered as refugees in order to obtain citizenship.
Under Article 13 of the law, non-ethnic Armenian refugees who have lived in Armenia for three years and can communicate in the Armenian language are also eligible to obtain citizenship.
The government completed regulations to implement the citizenship law in 1998. Since then, approximately 23,600 ethnic Armenian refugees have naturalized, including about 7,500 in 1999 and 9,800 in 2000. This number, however, is fewer than ten percent of the refugee population who may be eligible for citizenship.
Many refugees reportedly have not naturalized because they fear relinquishing property left behind in Azerbaijan, losing subsidized housing and other refugee assistance, or being conscripted into Armenia's military (from which refugees are exempt).
To encourage more ethnic Armenians from Azerbaijan to seek citizenship, on December 13, the government adopted a law "on social-economic guarantees for persons who had been forcibly displaced from ... Azerbaijan in 1988-1992 and have acquired Armenian citizenship." The law is designed to help naturalized ethnic Armenians from Azerbaijan to secure legal permanent housing, use com-munity services, and, potentially, to receive compensation for property left behind in Azerbaijan (if and when Azerbaijan and Armenia reach a bilateral agreement that includes such compensation).
Armenia signed the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol in 1993. However, the government did not adopt a law to implement the Convention until 1999 and had just begun implementing some of the law's provisions by the end of 2000. Instead, since 1994, Armenia has reserved refugee status almost exclusively for ethnic Armenians who fled from Azerbaijan, granting them similar civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights as citizens.
The "Law on Refugees in the Republic of Armenia" came into effect on March 27, 1999. Under the law, asylum seekers have ten days to file an application with the Department of Migration and Refugees (DMR). Applications are to be processed by the DMR within one month, during which asylum seekers are granted provisional residence rights. Rejected applicants have the right to appeal to a "higher administrative body" and then to a court. However, at the end of 2000, the appeal procedure remained in draft form.
Recognized refugees are entitled to many of the rights of Armenian citizens and are eligible for citizenship after three years of residence in Armenia. In February, the government adopted a decree under Article 10 of the refugee law to provide asylum seekers with temporary housing, free medical care, translation services, legal services, and a small, one-time cash allowance.
Since the law's adoption, UNHCR has transferred the responsibility for interviewing applicants and reviewing asylum claims to the DMR. UNHCR nevertheless continued to assist the DMR with asylum cases during 2000 – providing legal advice, country-of-origin information, training, technical support, and contacts with nongovernmental organizations that assist asylum seekers.
Armenia received applications from eleven asylum seekers during the year, approving five claims and rejecting six. No claims were pending at year's end.
Despite ongoing international mediation and several face-to-face meetings between Armenian president Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijan president Heydar Aliyev, political negotiations on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh that might enable ethnic Armenians from Azerbaijan to return to their home areas remained at an impasse in 2000.
Throughout the year, Armenia maintained control over Nagorno-Karabakh and six surrounding Azerbaijani territories. Opposing forces exchanged fire sporadically along the line of contact between the disputed enclave and Azerbaijan-proper.