Azerbaijan, Baku, May 19 /Trend, E.Ostapenko/
Over the past five years, Azerbaijan has shown great progress in ensuring the rights and living conditions of refugees from the occupied territories. Further joint work of the Azerbaijani government with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will enable Azerbaijan to modernize its asylum system to make it fully meet the best practices and international standards, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in an interview with Trend as a result of his regional visit to South Caucasus. Last time, Guterres visited the region in 2006.
The High Commissioner appreciated the development dynamics of the migration system in Azerbaijan, mentioning decent living conditions of refugees and internally displaced persons not only from the occupied territories, but also from other neighboring countries. He said the people are protected, nobody is sent back against their will.
But there are still some aspects that the High Commissioner believes it is possible to work together in the determination of who is the refugee and who is not.
"Not everybody asks for asylum, needs it or deserves it. Sometimes people migrate for economic reasons and ask for asylum, thinking that is the best way to be able to stay in the country," said Guterres.
He said it needs to achieve that this sophisticated procedure would function correctly.
"That is necessary that countries grant protection to those who needs, and to make sure that those, who are not entitled to be considered as refugees, are not recognized as such," he said adding that UNHCR is ready to provide all necessary assistance to Azerbaijan.
Guterres welcomed the efforts of the Azerbaijani government to comfortably accommodate those refugees who still live in difficult conditions.
Deputy Prime Minister, the head of Azerbaijan's State Committee for Refugees Ali Hasanov said the number is about 400,000 people from a total of more than one million people affected as a result of Armenian aggression.
"In many countries, I am shown only the settlement of refugees with excellent conditions, said Guterres. - I am glad that in Azerbaijan, I was shown not only the new settlements, but also some areas in Baku where there are still dormitories with an extremely humane approach."
An easy technocratic solution will be to send them to settlements build somewhere in the remote area of the country where land is cheap, he said. But, of course, many of them would lose their jobs, and their living conditions damaged by that. In this regard, Guterres welcomed the government's plan in order to improve the living conditions of these people. He promised maximal assistance from the UNHCR.
At this stage, UNHCR does not allocate Azerbaijan financial and humanitarian assistance, since the country on its own manages with providing refugees with all the necessary conditions without the help of international funds, Guterres said.
"We believe our role is not to try to replace the government in the assistance to the people displaced. I think that our role in this displacement question remains in the agenda, it is advocacy for the rights of displaced people and specially, working with the government for the preparation of what we hope will be when the voluntary repatriation, take dignity to the places of their origin, once peace is established and political solution is found to Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict."
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 surrounding districts.
Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the U.S. - are currently holding the peace negotiations.
Armenia has not yet implemented the U.N. Security Council's four resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.
High Commissioner declined to comment on the political aspects of the conflict, but expressed hope for a resolution of this protracted conflict.
Welcoming the declaration of presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia together with the three co-chairs of the Minsk Group within OSCE summit, Guterres said: it is my deep belief that both countries understand now that the status-quo does not serve any of them, and does not serve the people. I am very encouraged hoping that a political solution will be found, that peace will be established and people will be able to go back home in safety and dignity."