U.S. Committee for Refugees Mid-Year Country Report 2001 - Armenia

Although the Armenian government counted 192,000 displaced people within Armenia at the end of 2000, the U.S. Committee for Refugees believes that a more accurate estimate of the number of people still displaced as a result of conflict is about 50,000. Some 500,000 were rendered homeless by a major earthquake in 1988, about 100,000 of whom remain displaced twelve years later (USCR does not count victims of natural disasters in its tally of internal displacement, but only persons displaced because of conflict and other human rights abuses).

Part of the difficulty in estimating the number of conflict-induced internally displaced persons in Armenia is because they were never as visible and coherent a group as either the refugee influx (of about 340,000) from Azerbaijan or the earthquake-displaced population. Conflict-induced displaced people originate from areas bordering Azerbaijan, forced to move because of sporadic shelling and skirmishes in the border areas. According to the government, 12,300 houses in the border region were damaged, 40 percent totally destroyed. Many moved frequently and dispersed widely within and outside Armenia. According to a 1998 survey by the Refugees and Displaced Persons Working Group, about half of the internally displaced initially left villages for summer pasture lands, and from there sought safer accommodations elsewhere. In fact, since the 1994 ceasefire, many internally displaced persons have returned to their homes or moved out of the country entirely.

Given high rates of unemployment and poverty in Armenia generally, the World Food Program developed needs-based criteria for assisting 110,000 vulnerable persons, and internally displaced persons are not specifically identified as a beneficiary group or among the criteria for need. The Armenian government has established a Department for Migration and Refugees, which, based on the 1998 Working Group survey is supporting a project to facilitate the return of 39,000 internally displaced persons to the border region, as well as assisting 28,000 who have already returned. On the basis of these figures, and recognizing that not all displaced people are necessarily enrolled in this return program, USCR estimates the number of conflict-induced persons remaining displaced within Armenia to be about 50,000.


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