73 refugees are officially registered in Azerbaijan
73 foreign nationals with refugee status were registered with the Azerbaijani State Migration Service as of December 31, 2016 – reads the government’s report, submitted to the Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament). Besides, 10,559 foreign nationals enjoy residence permit and 37,752 – the temporary residence permit.
Refugees from Armenia traditionally are not included in the statistical data. All of them were issued Azerbaijani passports long time ago. However, 25 years after their forceful displacement to Azerbaijan, they have been still regarded as refugees and have been eligible for all benefits envisaged for refugees.
Azerbaijani Prime Minister, Artur Rasi-zadeh, is expected to introduce the report at the Milli Majli session on March 17.
The issue of appropriateness maintaining social benefits for refugees from Armenia was raised in Azerbaijani parliament on the number of occasions. The last time, in December last year, MP Chingiz Ganizadeh proposed to stop considering the displaced persons from Armenia as refugees. “The housing problem of the majority of refugees and IDPs has been resolved in the past 25 years,” Ganizadeh stated. However, the parliament did not support this proposal.
There is still no unanimous opinion as to the precise number of refugees from Armenia. A figure traditionally named by the Azerbaijani authorities is as follows: ‘over 1 million refugees and IDPs (from Nagorno-Karabakh and the adjacent areas). This number includes 250,000 refugees from Armenia.
However, Ali Hasanov, the Chair of the State Committee for Refugees, believes that the total number of refugees and IDPs makes 1million 200 thousand, rather than 1million.
According to Hasanov, 1million are the statistical data of 1992-1993. But the natural growth of country’s population within 20 years made 100:1, which implies that the number of IDPs and refugees also increased: “Having increased by 10,000 people annually, this number reached 1million 200 thousand people. It means that 1,2million out of 9million population are refugees and IDPs. In others words, if 1 out of 135 people worldwide is refugee, every 8th person in Azerbaijan is refugee. We are facing a very complex problem,” Hasanov told 1news.az news agency.
International researchers question the accuracy of Azerbaijani government’s data. According to the estimates made by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of refugees in Azerbaijan makes approximately 200,000 people (including about 50,000 ‘Meskhetian Turks’, who migrated to Azerbaijan from Uzbekistan in 1991.
This figure is congruent with the conclusions made by the Brtish journalist, Thomas de Waal.
“On the Azerbaijani side, the total number of displaced people comes to about 750,000—considerably less than the figure of ‘one million’ regularly used by President Aliev, but still a very large number. The number includes 186,000 Azerbaijanis, 18,000 Muslim Kurds, and 3,500 Russians who left Armenia for Azerbaijan in 1988–1989 (around 10,000 more Kurds and Russians left Armenia for Russia at the same time)- de Waal pointed out in his book ‘Black Garden’.