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«A profile of the internal displacement situation 14 July, 2008 This Internal Displacement Profile is automatically generated from the online IDP ...»

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IDPs still trapped in poverty and dependence

A profile of the internal displacement situation

14 July, 2008

This Internal Displacement Profile is automatically generated from the online IDP

database of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). It includes an overview

of the internal displacement situation in the country prepared by the IDMC, followed by a

compilation of excerpts from relevant reports by a variety of different sources. All headlines as well as the bullet point summaries at the beginning of each chapter were added by the IDMC to facilitate navigation through the Profile. Where dates in brackets are added to headlines, they indicate the publication date of the most recent source used in the respective chapter. The views expressed in the reports compiled in this Profile are not necessarily shared by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. The Profile is also available online at www.internal-displacement.org.

About the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, established in 1998 by the Norwegian Refugee Council, is the leading international body monitoring conflict-induced internal displacement worldwide.

Through its work, the Centre contributes to improving national and international capacities to protect and assist the millions of people around the globe who have been displaced within their own country as a result of conflicts or human rights violations.

At the request of the United Nations, the Geneva-based Centre runs an online database providing comprehensive information and analysis on internal displacement in some 50 countries.

Based on its monitoring and data collection activities, the Centre advocates for durable solutions to the plight of the internally displaced in line with international standards.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre also carries out training activities to enhance the capacity of local actors to respond to the needs of internally displaced people. In its work, the Centre cooperates with and provides support to local and national civil society initiatives.

For more information, visit the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre website and the database at www.internal-displacement.org.

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre Norwegian Refugee Council Chemin de Balexert 7-9 1219 Geneva, Switzerland Tel.: +41 22 799 07 00 idmc@nrc.ch www.internal-displacement.org



–  –  –


IDPs still trapped in poverty and dependence Download PDF version (500 KB) Almost 15 years after signing a ceasefire agreement, Azerbaijan and Armenia have yet to resolve the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. In the absence of a peace agreement, some 570,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) are still prevented from returning to their homes in Azerbaijan.

The Azerbaijani government has resettled more than 90,000 IDPs in new villages since 2001 and while this group lives in better houses, the land surrounding their homes is often infertile, there are few employment opportunities and some villages are located within kilometres of the line of contact with Nagorno-Karabakh far from other communities. The lack of consultation with IDPs prior to their resettlement and the fact that they have no secure legal tenure over housing in new settlements are also causes for concern.

IDPs who have not been resettled continue to live in accommodation varying from collective centres and mud shacks to abandoned apartments and the homes of relatives. Some live under the threat of eviction in informal settlements. In collective centres and mud houses, housing conditions are poor and plumbing and electricity infrastructure is lacking. The physical security of some IDPs is at risk since they live near the line of contact where there are frequent exchanges of fire. With few jobs in rural areas, many IDPs are dependent on government assistance and are migrating to the cities in the hope of finding work. Due to government policies aimed at preventing migration to cities or because their documents have been lost, some IDPs are unable to register their residence in the capital Baku, which prevents them from accessing jobs, services and entitlements such as medical care and pensions.

The resettlement process is ongoing, and the government in 2007 approved a programme to resettle some 75,000 further IDPs and to create new infrastructure and income-generation opportunities by 2011. While resettlement will improve the situation of these IDPs, a further 405,000 IDPs have yet to benefit from government resettlement programmes. International organisations are slowly leaving Azerbaijan, but despite waning donor support some continue to carry out projects to improve the living conditions of IDPs and offer suggestions on how the government can do the same. Further international support could be directed towards providing expertise on conducting comprehensive needs assessment surveys on themes such as health, livelihoods and education.


The origins of the territorial dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh go back centuries. But the current conflict is based on the 1923 Soviet decision to allocate Armenian-majority Karabakh to Azerbaijan instead of defining it as an exclave of neighbouring Armenia. In 1988 armed conflict over the territory broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan – the former historically Christian, the latter Moslem –and people started fleeing their homes. By the time the period of intense fighting ended with the signing of a ceasefire agreement in 1994, Armenia controlled NagornoKarabakh and adjacent parts of Azerbaijan, some 30,000 people had been killed and approximately 700,000 were internally displaced within Azerbaijan, most of them ethnic Azerbaijanis (NRC 30 April 2008; TOL, 16 October 2007). About 54,000 displaced people were later able to return to their homes as the Armenian army withdrew from some territory it had occupied, but Armenian forces still control most areas and displaced inhabitants continue to be prevented from going back (NRC, 29 February 2008). As of April 2008 more than 572,000 people remained internally displaced in Azerbaijan (Government of Azerbaijan, 3 April 2008).

A sustainable negotiated solution to the conflict appears distant in 2008. A 120-kilometre line of contact divides Armenian and Azerbaijani forces and skirmishes causing casualties continue to be reported. Negotiations within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group continue, though there has been no significant progress towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Azerbaijan insists on territorial integrity within its Soviet-era borders, while Armenia refuses to relinquish control over the areas it occupies until mechanisms for determining Nagorno-Karabakh’s future status are put in place. Meanwhile, both countries are significantly increasing their military budgets (ICG, 31 January 2008; RFE/RL, 4 March 2008; Government of Azerbaijan, 4 May 2007; EU, 17 January 2008), and some analysts have warned that they are edging towards a renewal of the conflict (ICG, 31 January 2008).

Living conditions of IDPs

IDPs in Azerbaijan live in various types of housing or other shelter in urban and rural areas, which ranges from railway wagons and mud shacks to schools and new houses. The main categories are collective centres (33 per cent), self-built mud houses (15 per cent), abandoned apartments (12 per cent), new houses (12 per cent) and lodgings with relatives (12 per cent) (Government of Azerbaijan, 3 April 2008). A 2007 UNHCR assessment based on group discussions with 860 IDPs in 47 areas found that poor living conditions and lack of infrastructure were the main outstanding problems of respondents, irrespective of their location, gender or age. Children and adolescents felt they needed more privacy, while disabled people, single mothers and orphans had little hope they would achieve living conditions that met their needs (UNHCR, 1 November 2007).

About 40 per cent of IDPs live in the main cities of Baku and Sumgait (Government of Azerbaijan, 3 April 2008). Most of this group live in multi-storey collective centres, many of which have leaking roofs and run-down kitchens, bathrooms and plumbing systems. Individual households are separated but share a kitchen and bathroom with others on their floor. Families typically occupy one or two rooms with no separation of the sexes or age groups. Gas and electricity are supplied free of charge. Some families have managed to leave collective centres after building new homes or finding better affordable housing in the private sector. The remaining occupants therefore tend to be the most vulnerable (NRC, 30 November 2007). The government’s 2007 programme proposed, among other activities, the further renovation of communal areas in collective centres and the resettlement in new housing of some IDPs in cities (Government of Azerbaijan, 31 October 2007).

About 70,000 IDPs have been squatting in private apartments (Government of Azerbaijan, 3 April 2008), mainly left by ethnic Armenians during the conflict. The Azerbaijani government has supported them and other IDPs with a resolution and decree recommending that the courts prevent the eviction of IDPs from their residences. Court judgements have mostly rejected applications concerning the right to reclaim occupied residences, confirming that this right will be suspended as long as the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh remains unresolved. However, in 2007 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) upheld the claim of one owner of an apartment occupied by a displaced family, finding that the applicant had been denied peaceful enjoyment of her possessions (ECHR, 27 December 2007). The Supreme Court of Azerbaijan must now review this case, though the government has stated that the European Court’s decision cannot supersede earlier decisions of local courts.

Government protection against eviction has not helped all IDPs. Businessmen have bought collective centres in Baku and reportedly evicted residents without adequate notice, consultation, compensation or alternative accommodation (AI, 28 June 2007). Other IDPs who fled to the Sumgait area fear they may be evicted at any time. After arriving during the conflict, they bought land from the municipal authorities and have since built houses and installed their own plumbing, communication and electricity infrastructure, but have still not been granted a formal title for the land. A local legal aid centre has brought this issue to the attention of the local authorities, who contend that they cannot issue land titles since the settlements are not in a residential zone (IDMC, 12 December 2007).

Outside of cities, IDPs live mainly in the central and western parts of the country near NagornoKarabakh. While the government has closed the worst settlements, some IDPs continue to live in improvised shelters of poor structural quality. They are built from materials such as mud bricks, rocks, frail sticks, cardboard and scrap metal all held together with wood and plaster. Houses are usually small and the roofs regularly fly off since they are not attached securely. Inside, the floors are covered with scrap material, but this does not protect against the entry of mice and snakes.

With no heating system or proper windows, these shelters fail to provide warmth, ventilation, physical security or privacy. Many of these IDPs must also contend with a lack of potable water and gas, infertile land, and marginalisation as the isolated settlements often lack public transport links.

Displaced families who returned to their homes in Fizuli, near the line of contact, are also living in poor conditions. Upon return, they found their houses and property destroyed, the water infrastructure destroyed and agricultural land mined. Fizuli has the highest contamination of land mines and unexploded ordnance in the areas under the control of Azerbaijan; frequent exchanges of fire on the line of contact also put the physical security of returnees there at risk (ANAMA, 30 April 2008). Communal infrastructure has slowly been repaired as the government focus on these villages has increased. Only a minority of those who returned managed to obtain property deeds because property restitution or compensation mechanisms had not been put in place, procedures were too bureaucratic and fees were high. However, in some cases new property deeds were issued in a less complicated procedure. The 2007 government programme includes the repair of 1,500 houses in Fizuli district for returnees, and the government maintains the IDP status of returnees since they continue to live in a displacement-like situation.

Conditions in new settlements

To date, government programmes to improve shelter have mainly targeted IDPs in rural areas.

Within the framework of the 2004 state programme for displaced persons, the government has resettled nearly 90,000 IDPs from the worst IDP settlements, offering them houses and small plots of land in 49 new villages which it has built since 2001 (Government of Azerbaijan, n.d.;

NRC, 29 February 2008). In 2007, IDPs were moved to 16 new settlements in Bilasuvar, Fizuli, Aghdam, Sabirabad, Saatly and Sabunchou districts, and three tent camps were demolished in Sabirabad and Saatly (Government of Azerbaijan, 3 April 2008). Displaced communities have been settled and resettled together to facilitate eventual reintegration in places of origin.

Resettled IDPs also maintain their IDP status.

Despite these impressive efforts and improved housing conditions for most resettled IDPs, the new settlements raise several concerns. Many are located in economically depressed regions without public transport links and are often distant from other communities and administrative centres. A few are within kilometres of the line of contact and residents regularly hear fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces (NRC, 29 February 2008; ICG, 14 November 2007;

AFP 14 February 2008; IWPR, 12 March 2008; EurasiaNet, 26 July 2007). Some houses were constructed poorly and the land accompanying them is salty and infertile. There are few opportunities to earn an income and some IDPs are forced to leave the settlements and search for employment elsewhere. IDPs living in the new settlements explained how they would have welcomed the chance to state their opinion on the new villages beforehand (NRC, 29 February 2008; UNHCR, 1 November 2007; IDMC, 12 December 2007).

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