Thursday, June 28, 2007

Refugee Day: Armenia hosts some 300,000 displaced

Jun 20, 2007, Armenia
By Siranouish Gevorgyan
ArmeniaNow reporter

The latest data published by the United Nations show that the number of refugees across the globe reached 10 million in 2006, growing by 14 percent on the previous year, and including more than 300,000 in Armenia. The Iraqi crisis is cited as the main reason for the increase. Since 2001, June 20 has been marked as the International Day of Refugees.

According to Head of the Department for Migration and Refugee Affairs Gagik Yeganyan, the precise figure of refugees staying in Armenia today will become clear very soon.

The UNHCR Yerevan Office jointly with the Migration Agency is currently taking a census of refugees and its findings are expected to be published within a month’s time.

About 400,000 people took refugee in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh because of the Karabakh conflict that broke out in 1988. Ethnographer Hranush Kharatyan says that a majority of refugees – some 360,000 – came to Armenia from Azerbaijan, and the other 40,000 came from other republics of the former USSR. Later, according to the ethnographer, many of the refugees abandoned Armenia because of heavy social conditions.

“In collaboration with the local authorities and the Danish Refugee Council, the [UNHCR] Office will help draft a new asylum law in accordance with international standards,” says the UNHCR Global Appeal reviewing the refugee situation in 2006.

The report also suggests that the conflict in the Middle East in 2006 saw about 600 mostly ethnic Armenians from Lebanon, Syria and Israel flee to Armenia and “250 of them have applied for asylum.”

The figure sharply differs from that of the Head of the Department for Migration and Refugee Affairs Gagik Yeganyan. He says some 1,000 citizens from the Middle East have applied for asylum in Armenia.

Housing is considered to be the biggest problem for refugees in Armenia today. According to the data of the “Ahazang” Non Governmental Organization attending to refugee problems, 4,500 refugee families are still in need of housing in Armenia today.

“Nascent national welfare structures, a tight UNHCR budget and the appreciation of the local currency against the U.S. dollar are the biggest constraints for durable solutions,” the U.N. report says.

In 2006, the United Nations allocated $1.5 million to Armenia for the needs of refugees. About the same amount of money will be allocated for the purpose this year.

The “Refugees and International Law” civil society network that embraces eight NGOs attending to refugee problems disseminated a statement yesterday, June 19, accusing Armenia’s authorities and international organizations of concealing refugee problems existing in the country.

“Don’t believe the upbeat statements that the problem of refugees has been mainly solved in Armenia. The problem of refugees does exist in Armenia and still awaits its solution,” the authors of the statement charge.

They, in particular, call regrettable what they describe as the irresponsibility of United Nations officials.

“They do everything not to deal with real problems,” the Network’s statement alleges.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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