Azerbaijan’s IDP crisis and right to return acknowledged in new UK Government FCO report

Press Release: In an unprecedented move, a new report from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) – entitled Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the South Caucasus – the numbers game has acknowledged: “Azerbaijan is host to one of the largest populations of displaced persons in the world in per capita terms.” The report analyses the seismic population shifts that have taken place in Azerbaijan and Georgia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the economic impact of this. It also speaks of the “enormous suffering and hardship” on those affected.

Recognising that these people are the ongoing victims of the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, it concludes by stating: “The right of refugees and IDPs to return to their homes is central to Baku’s vision for restoring their territorial integrity – and in principle, this is supported by the international community as a necessary element of any long-term settlement.”

The FCO report goes on to provide support for the Azerbaijani official figure of “around a million IDPs and refugees”, citing that the Azerbaijani figure is slightly above that of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and that the UNHCR fails to take into account the estimated quarter of a million Azerbaijanis who fled Armenia at the height of the conflict in the early 1990s.

The FCO findings also give credence to calls for UN World Refugee Day on 20 June – based on a definition decided after World War II – to be redesignated as UN World Refugee and IDP Day. This is supported by the Many Happy Returns campaign, and there is the chance to pledge your support at www.manyhappyreturnsidp.com. To date, 24 UK MPs have pledged their backing for the campaign and provided supportive messages.

The Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict raged from 1988–94 and resulted in the occupation of the Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions. To date, four UN Security Council resolutions have been passed, condemning the occupation, but these remain unimplemented. The OSCE Minsk Group has been tasked with establishing a negotiated peace, but it has achieved little to date.