Refugees in Armenia: "We want revolution in our life as well"

Refugees in Armenia: "We want revolution in our life as well"

Established by the UN General Assembly, the World Refugee Day is celebrated every year on 20 June. Under the 1951 Convention, refugees have the right to work, housing, education, government and public assistance. As a result of Armenia's aggression and occupation, Azerbaijan has become one of the countries with the largest number of internally displaced persons per capita. Today their number has exceeded 1.2 million people. Over the past 20 years, Baku has spent $6 billion to ensure the social welfare of these people, that enabled to significantly reduce poverty and unemployment. More than 250,000 IDPs have been provided with new houses and apartments in Azerbaijan.

On the other hand, many people who left Azerbaijan during the active phase of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remained in Armenia. However, many of them have lived in dormitories for 30 years already - the government has no money to provide refugees with housing. On June 20, refugees living in Armenia gathered in front of the UN office building. According to, the head of the Refugee Voice public organization Oksana Musaelyan handed over a letter to the office, after which the picketers went to the government building, demanding a meeting with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. They held banners reading: "We have been refugees for 30 years", "We have waited for an apartment for 29 years", "Stop ignoring us". "We want a revolution in our lives as well... The government is waiting for us to die, and then this issue will be finally solved," the assembled said.

However, housing is not their only problem. According to the same publication, after the adoption of the 1995 citizenship law, the process of "voluntary" naturalization of Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan has been started with the granting of citizenship, which gave them the right to be elected, vote and leave the country. Twenty-five years later, according to the State Migration Service of Armenia, about 20,000 refugees from Azerbaijan still retain refugee status. But those refugees which received Armenian citizenship as a result of the naturalization program - about 83 thousand people - are also convinced that naturalization was forced. They consider themselves victims of the trap set by the country's migration policy. Such sentiments are associated with unjustified hopes that acquiring citizenship would radically change their situation. Nevertheless, making them de facto citizens was not enough. Both naturalized citizens and those who have retained refugee status remain the poorest, most marginalized and vulnerable segments of the population, for whom problems of housing, education and employment remain unresolved in the vast majority of cases.

At the same time, Yerevan pursues a policy aimed at settling the occupied territories of Azerbaijan by Syrian refugees. Observers say that it can be regarded as evidence of Armenia's attempts to use human suffering for illegal purposes. The Armenian government's silence about refugee problems and avoidance of their presence on the territory of the country is viewed by them as a cynical policy that turns people into pariahs.

Today, the UN proceeds from the premise that "refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants are not the problem; the problem lies in conflict, persecution and hopeless poverty." The only solution to the problem of internally displaced persons is a just solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the safe return of people to their homes.