14 February 1995

Doc. 7250

REPORT on the humanitarian situation of the refugees and displaced persons in Armenia and Azerbaijan

(Rapporteur: Mr ATKINSON, United Kingdom, European Democratic Group)


Summary

      The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has produced over a million refugees and displaced persons and caused untold suffering since it broke out in 1988. A cease-fire has been in effect since May 1994.

      Paying tribute to the dedicated work of the relief organisations present in Armenia and Azerbaijan, which he visited in 1994, the Rapporteur calls for intensified international assistance, including urgently needed prefabricated accommodation to replace tents, totally inadequate against the cold, and more substantial supplies of food and heating fuel. He also proposes the creation of a unified United Nations agency for the Caucasus and the speeding-up of the political dialogue with a view to ending the conflict.

I. Draft resolution

1.       The Assembly deplores that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which broke out in 1988, has resulted in untold human suffering, leaving thousands dead, tens of thousands wounded and more than one million refugees and displaced persons in Armenia and Azerbaijan.

2.       The latter figure includes hundreds of thousands who were compelled to leave their homes following threats, reports of atrocities, or orders issued by the Soviet authorities before 1991.

3.       Following the independence of Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1991, their economies have seriously deteriorated, a situation aggravated by the effects of the conflict and of the economic blockades by neighbouring countries.

4.       As a result, the populations of both countries have experienced a serious decrease in living standards, and are facing increasing hardships, including rising unemployment and severe shortages of water, fuel and energy. The United Nations estimates that over one million people in both countries are now living below poverty level.

5.       The refugees in particular, and especially those living in inadequate tents in Azerbaijan, are facing extreme hardships through a lack of basic warmth, food and medical support.

6.       United Nations programmes have been established in both countries since December 1992. However, their funding is far from adequate to meet the needs of the situation.

7.       In addition, United Nations agencies are advising and assisting both governments on the transition to market economies, decentralisation, and the provision of databases for health and education programmes. However, these services, currently conducted from separate headquarters in the countries concerned, including Georgia, are hampered by certain obstacles to co-operation, and their provision may not represent the most efficient deployment of expertise, management, and resources over the long term.

8.       The Assembly recalls its Recommendation 1251 (1994) welcoming the cease-fire which came into force on 12 May 1994, calling on all sides to refrain from any hostile act which might prejudice it, and offering to help promote a peace agreement to the best of its abilities, particularly by encouraging dialogue between the parliamentarians from the parties concerned.

9.       The Assembly reiterates its calls on the warring parties to organise the earliest possible return home of those refugees who wish to do so, with compensation for those who wish to resettle elsewhere; to respect minority rights; and for an immediate end to the blockades of all means of transport and communication between them and those imposed by Russia and Turkey.

10.       The Assembly urges:

i.       the Armenian, Azeri, and Georgian Governments to co-operate to the fullest extent with United Nations agencies and non-governmental organisations in the provision of emergency relief and longer term programmes for health, education, rehabilitation, and development;

ii.       the Georgian Government to accept the return and resettlement of the Meskhetian Turks, with United Nations assistance, and calls on the United Nations to give special emphasis to the situation of this particularly vulnerable group;

iii.       the European Union, through its Humanitarian Office, to step up its aid to the vulnerable populations of the southern Caucasus.

11.       Finally, the Assembly calls for greater international efforts to help re-establish peace and to improve the humanitarian situation in the Caucasus, and, to this end, encourages the governments and parliaments of member states to offer their assistance, expertise and co-operation to the region as it emerges from seventy years of isolation.

II. Draft recommendation

1.       The Assembly, referring to its Resolution .... (1995) on the humanitarian situation of the refugees and displaced persons in Armenia and Azerbaijan, recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

i.       Consider as a matter of urgency the critical situation arising from the sheer inadequacy of international assistance to the victims of the cruel conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, and in particular to those driven from their homes;

ii.       Following its Recommendation 1247 (1994) on enlargement of the Council of Europe, invite the Council of Europe's Social Development Fund and its member states to enable refugees and displaced persons in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to benefit from financing by the Fund, through its Emergency Account, possibly in co-ordination with United Nations and other international institutions involved;

iii.       Invite the governments of all member states:

      a.       to accept that international assistance through United Nations agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and non-governmental organisations will be required in the Caucasus for many years to come, and to respond accordingly and generously to their future appeals;

      b.       to offer expertise and manpower for demining the area in and around Karabakh;

      c.       to consider the creation of a unified United Nations agency for the Caucasus along the lines of UNRWA in Palestine and the establishment of a regional headquarters in Tbilisi, or of a similar co-ordinating mechanism;

      d.       to accelerate the political dialogue with the authorities of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia by confirming existing offers of Council of Europe assistance, expertise and co-operation particularly in the areas of human rights, the introduction of parliamentary democracy, and, where appropriate, protection of minority rights and cultural identity.

III. Explanatory memorandum

by Mr ATKINSON

Contents

Page

1.       Introduction       7

2.       Historical background        7

3.       The overall humanitarian situation1        8

4.       The situation in Armenia1        9

5.       Rapporteur's visit to Armenia (26-31 August 1994)        11

5.1.       Meeting with Mr Vladimir Movsissian, Head of State

Department for Refugees        11

5.2.       Meeting with Mr Bagoyan, Minister for Social Affairs       11

5.3.       Meeting with Mr Claude Belleau, UNDP       12

5.4.       Meeting with Mr Juheni Alenka, UNICEF       12

5.5.       Meeting with Mr Dale Skoric, WPF       12

5.6.       Visit to the refugee site at Hayanist, 25 km south

of Yerevan, accompanied by Mr Adriano Silvestri,

UNHCR Protection Officer       12

5.7.       Visit to the UNHCR project at Echnizdin        13

5.8.       Visits to the refugee centres in Hrazdan district,

accompanied by Mr Surendra Panday, UNHCR Field Officer       13

5.9.       Visit to the Oxfam refugee village at Arznik,

Kotack district        13

6.       The situation in Azerbaijan1       13

7.       Rapporteur's visit to Azerbaijan (14-17 November 1994)       15

7.1.       Meeting with Mr Kaisar Zarmen, UNHCR Field

Officer-in-Charge        15

Page

7.2.       Meeting with Mr Roberto Laurenti, UNICEF Resident

Programme Officer        16

7.3.       Meeting with Mr Fuad Gusseinov, Acting Head of WFP       16

7.4.       Meeting with Mr Necmetting Ilhan, Acting Head of the

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)        16

7.5.       Meeting with Mr David McLachlan-Karr, Head of the

United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs        16

7.6.       Meeting with Mr Bernhard Julier, International

Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)        16

7.7.       Meeting with Mr Gasunov, M.P., Chairman of the

Parliamentary Committee on Refugees        17

7.8.       Visit to the Iranian Red Crescent refugee camp

near Imisly        17

7.9.       Meeting with Mr Khanhussayn Baylarov, Chief of Imisly

district authority       17

8.       Conclusions        17

APPENDIX: UNHCR map of the Caucasus        20

1. Introduction

1.       The motion for a resolution on the situation in the Caucasus (Doc. 6891) which the Bureau of the Assembly referred to the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography on 3 September 1993 deplored the serious deterioration in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the resulting tragic situation of the refugees and displaced persons. The signatories of the motion demanded an immediate end to Armenian incursions into Azerbaijan before more lives were lost and more refugees forced to flee, and that "the necessary conditions be created for the return of the displaced persons and rapid delivery of humanitarian assistance".

2.       After considering this motion at its meeting on 15 October 1993, the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography agreed to inform the Bureau that it would deal only with aspects of the question relating to refugees, not with the strictly political aspects, although it is obvious that the two cannot be entirely divorced. Moreover, for the sake of completeness and to bring the report into line with the geographical scope of the title, the report should also cover the situation of the refugees and others displaced by the conflict in Georgia.

3.       The committee subsequently agreed that the Rapporteur should undertake fact-finding visits to the region in preparation for his report rather than rely entirely on the reports of others, subject to the approval of the Bureau. Unfortunately such approval has not been forthcoming, being dependent on the outcome of the delayed debate on the enlargement of the Council of Europe, and subsequently on the further delayed referral of the applications of all three Caucasian states for special guest status to the competent committees.

4.       Consequently, on his own initiative, the Rapporteur sought invitations from the respective governments to visit Armenia and Azerbaijan. These visits took place from 26 to 31 August and from 14 to 17 November 1994. The programmes included meetings with the appropriate ministers, briefings from United Nations agencies and other international organisations, and refugee site visits. As no such opportunity to visit Georgia has arisen, this report, to date, refers principally to Armenia and Azerbaijan.

2. Historical background

5.       The collapse of communism and the rise of ethnic hostilities have plunged the southern fringes of the former Soviet Union into turmoil, particularly in the Caucasus where ethnic conflicts have forced some 1,5 million people from their homes in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The committee briefly considered the situation in its report on population movements between the republics of the former USSR (Doc. 6739) which the Parliamentary Assembly debated on 4 February 1993.

6.       The Assembly has since considered in greater detail a report from its Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries on the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh (Doc. 7182) which its Standing Committee adopted on 10 November 1994. This referred to almost 20 000 deaths and more than one million refugees since the conflict broke out in 1988. A cease-fire has been in force since May 1994.

3. The overall humanitarian situation2

7.       Although there has been sporadic media coverage of the fighting over the past few years, the world is largely unaware of the human suffering caused by the conflict and which continues today for hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced in all three republics.

8.       At government invitation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) established offices in both Armenia and Azerbaijan in December 1992, marking the organisation's first ever assistance programme for refugees and displaced people in the former Soviet Union. UNHCR began operations in Georgia in July 1993. It is now the most active and visible United Nations agency in the Caucasus.3

9.       UNHCR works very closely in the region with the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF, the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and several other international, government and non-governmental organisations.

10.       In addition to its traditional legal and protection mandate the UNHCR's mission in all three republics is to provide humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable of the refugees and displaced — some 630 000 people in total.

11.       Although UNHCR does not seek a global mandate to care for the internally displaced, it has intervened in the Caucasus on their behalf at the request of the United Nations Secretary General and the governments involved — a move that has had a preventive impact by providing protection and assistance to people who might otherwise feel compelled to cross international borders into neighbouring countries.

12.       The work has not been easy and what began as a six-month programme in Armenia and Azerbaijan is in its third year. Political developments in the Caucasus brought about a fragile cease-fire in May 1994.

13.       But the refugees and displaced are not the only ones hurting. The general populations of all three countries are also bearing a tremendous burden. The infrastructure is collapsing, and in many areas fuel and power supplies are sporadic or non-existent. Trade and industry have ground to a halt, leaving hundreds of thousands of families without jobs or income. Inflation has skyrocketed and there are shortages of just about everything. People are hungry, and the lines for government subsidised bread grow longer by the day. In Armenia, a half-kilo of butter costs a month's wages; and a kilogramme of meat, two months' pay. Unless the world responds, there is the threat of famine in Armenia in the winter of 1994-95.

14.       UNHCR asked the international community for nearly $ 27 million for its 1994 programmes in the three Caucasian countries, part of a total United Nations consolidated appeal of more than $ 114 million. It is in the world's interest to help the people of these newly independent states of the former Soviet Union to rebuild their lives in a climate of peace and stability.

4. The situation in Armenia4

15.       Armenia is staggering under the effects of six years of war and a de facto blockade by its neighbours that has blocked nearly all trade routes into the country, leaving it desperately short of food, fuel, seeds, fertiliser, and other essentials. With the collapse of the former Soviet Union, government and regional administrative networks have disintegrated. What is left of the economy is a mixture of socialist, market and barter systems, with what locals call a strong "mafia" influence.

16.       More than 70% of the country's former industries have been shut down, and those that remain open are operating at only 10% to 20% of capacity. The Armenian currency, the dram, was valued at 14,5 per US dollar when it was introduced on 22 November 1993. By June 1994 it had depreciated to 400 per dollar. During the same period, prices increased twenty-three-fold.

17.       The Armenian Government estimates that 94% of the population of 3,5 million people now live below the World Bank poverty line of $ 1 per person per day. And the government is still trying to cope with the aftermath of the 1988 Armenian earthquake that devastated much of the country, killed 25 000 people and left 500 000 people homeless.

18.       On top of these huge problems is a refugee population of more than 300 000 people who fled Nagorno-Karabakh and other areas of Azerbaijan in a series of influxes between 1988 and 1992.

19.       In 1994 UNHCR assisted a "most vulnerable" caseload of 150 000 of these refugees.5 But as the above examples illustrate, nearly the entire population of Armenia is now vulnerable.

20.       "Despite the hardships faced by the general population, the Armenian people have been extremely generous to the refugees. They feel a lot of sympathy for them," says Mr Robert Robinson, UNHCR's head of office in Yerevan. "Armenians don't let each other starve. They share what they've got."

21.       But that generosity may not last if things get much worse for the general population, particularly with the onset of another bitterly cold winter. "When you're sleeping in a room that's minus 10 degrees centigrade, you're on the ninth floor with no elevator, you have no electricity twenty-four hours a day and you have little food or fuel, it takes a huge psychological toll," Mr Robinson said. "I think as each winter comes, the amount of energy that people have to cope becomes less and less".

22.       UNHCR has increased its caseload of most vulnerable refugees in Armenia from 53 000 when it opened its office in December 1992, to 140 000 in 1993, to 150 000 in 1994. In 1993, UNHCR delivered a total of 105 000 family food parcels, along with blankets, plastic sheeting and kerosene as part of a wider distribution by USAID (co-financed by Japan) to the general population. It also supported a variety of programmes by NGOs, including an innovative rural shelter project which provides so-called "container housing" and 800-square-metre plots of land to refugees so they can grow some of their own food.

23.       Although the government has registered about 360 000 refugees, some 35 000 are believed to have returned to Nagorno-Karabakh, and tens of thousands of others have gone to other countries — mainly within the former Soviet Union — because of the poor economic conditions in Armenia. It is estimated that about 300 000 refugees who fled from Azerbaijan remain in Armenia. The government says another 77 000 people are displaced from towns and villages that border Azerbaijan in the east. There are also an estimated 5 000 to 6 000 refugees who fled fighting in the Abkhazia region of Georgia. Most of them are believed to be living in urban areas of Armenia.

24.       Of UNHCR's 1993 caseload of 140 000, approximately 30% were adult males, 43% were adult females, and 27% were children. The caseload in Armenia can be broadly divided into two categories:

      a.       1988-91 refugees from Sumgait, Ganja, Baku and other areas of Azerbaijan;

      b.       1992 refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh and the Shahumyan and Markakert areas.

25.       About 60% of refugees in Armenia live in communal centres, many of which urgently require repair and rehabilitation. UNHCR is working with Oxfam and other organisations to improve these buildings, and in 1993 carried out repairs in more than eighty. But much more needs to be done. In Yerevan alone, there are more than 150 communal centres housing refugees. In 1994, UNHCR and Oxfam hoped to carry out repairs in another 100 communal centres.

26.       UNHCR works or co-ordinates closely in Armenia with the State Department for Refugees, the Armenian Red Cross Society, UNDP, WFP, UNICEF, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, CARE, the American Red Cross, the Danish Refugee Council and several other government organisations, including Oxfam, Médecins sans frontičres (MSF), Save the Children Fund, Volunteers on Overseas Co-operative Assistance, and the YMCA. Also present in Armenia are several Armenian cultural and humanitarian agencies based in other countries. The government says that there are a total of twenty-eight international humanitarian organisations working in Armenia.

27.       UNHCR's funding requirements for Armenia in 1994 were $ 4 005 700 to provide multi-sectoral assistance to refugees and internally displaced people. The 1994 UNHCR programme in Armenia included:

      —Do       mestic needs and household assistance. Provision of basic household and relief items such as kerosene, blankets, soap and detergent, as well as clothing.—

      —Sh       elter and infrastructure. Refurbishing existing urban buildings currently housing refugees and displaced people. Construction of small housing units in rural areas, particularly those allocated agricultural plots by the government. Water and sanitation projects.—

      —In       come generation. Provision of seeds and tools for vegetable gardening; small handicraft projects for women.5.

5. Rapporteur's visit to Armenia (26-31 August 1994)

5.1.       Meeting with Mr Vladimir Movsissian, Head of State Department for Refugees

28.       The first wave of 350 000 Azeri ethnic-Armenian refugees commenced in May 1988 following the "Sumgait Massacre"; a second wave of 5 100 left Karabakh in May 1991; a third wave of 7 000 left in June and July 1992, of whom 3 900 have since returned. In addition, there are 6 000 Abkhaz refugees from Georgia, of whom 2 000 have returned.

29.       On 1 September 1994 there were 304 000 refugees in Armenia representing some 12% of the total population. An additional 514 000 remain homeless following the 1988 earthquake, 78 000 are living in damaged homes in the border region with Azerbaijan and there are a further 100 000 on housing lists. Thus Armenia has over one million people with no home.

30.       Refugees are mainly housed in temporary accommodation and public buildings such as hotels and schools. Seventy percent do not work. The majority of Armenians from Azerbaijan are professionals such as engineers and teachers, whereas the majority of Azeris who left Armenia were farmers. Armenians from Azerbaijan left 92 000 homes, for which no compensation has been received, whilst Azeris left 32 000 homes in Armenia to whom the Armenian Government paid 71 million roubles ($ 71 million then) in 1989.

31.       Armenia is now in its sixth year of economic blockade covering transportation, fuel and finance. Railways to the north are closed. The only road to Iran is a tortuous mountain route. The economy is no longer working, industry has been dislocated and there is little energy to pump water. The infrastructure is disintegrating. There is a growing death and suicide rate arising from the neurosis of continuing suffering. A lack of soap, detergents and water will likely lead to disease.

5.2.       Meeting with Mr Bagoyan, Minister for Social Affairs

32.       One-third of Armenia has been ruined by the earthquake, less than 6% has been rebuilt and its victims remain in temporary accommodation. Transportation is blockaded. Exit from the rouble zone has caused inflation. There is an energy crisis, reduction in industrial output of 70% due to interruptions in imports of raw materials, and unemployment is rising. The 300 000 refugees represent 10% of the population, but 80% of the population need help. Mr Bagoyan said that his ministry targets risk groups for the distribution of aid to refugees and those with low standards of living. The United Nations is doing an excellent job with projects, food programmes and accommodation, but more aid is needed. A "common market" among all three Caucasian states offers the best prospect for the future of the region.

5.3.       Meeting with Mr Claude Belleau, UNDP

33.       As a funding agency, UNDP works with the Armenian Ministry for the Economy which oversees all foreign aid and assists it in reforming the centrally planned economy. Rehabilitation and development needs of the country are being overlooked in favour of the needs of the refugees, which has meant that the economy has declined. The well developed labour force is facing growing unemployment.

5.4.       Meeting with Mr Juheni Alenka, UNICEF

34.       UNICEF is helping the Armenian Government to rebuild the health system for a five-year period yet to be agreed at $ 4 million a year from regular donors. Last year's emergency appeal for a two-year budget restarted an immunisation programme which the Department of Health is to maintain. The distribution of biscuits, blankets and clothing to vulnerable groups and standardised kits for preventive health is to be replaced by a normal UNICEF country programme plus an emergency programme for refugees.

5.5.       Meeting with Mr Dale Skoric, WFP

35.       WFP organises food aid for 150 000 refugees and 170 000 vulnerable pensioners and co-ordinates school feeding to avoid NGOs overlapping. The biggest concern is the continued shortfall of supplies to satisfy needs and problems of transportation. WFP has established a Caucasian logistics advisory unit with a communications centre in Tbilisi to co-ordinate rail waggons for scheduled arrivals of shipments at Butomi and Poki on the Black Sea. Locomotives have been supplied from Russia to avoid winter electricity shortage. Bridges in Abkhazia have been strengthened and ports dredged for increased tonnage throughput. In addition, there is one USAID-funded light aircraft service between Caucasian airfields, and a bridge in Georgia has been restored to provide a lifeline to Armenia. Problems of pilfering of cargo in Georgia and difficulties in implementing similar measures in Azerbaijan have been encountered.

5.6.       Visit to the Refugee site at Hayanist, 25 km south of Yerevan, accompanied by Mr Adriano Silvestri, UNHCR Protection Officer

36.       This site consists of prefabricated dwellings on sizeable plots, replacing temporary accommodation for ethnic Armenian families who arrived from Azerbaijan in 1991. These were mainly professional people such as teachers and nurses who had been forced by the Soviet army to abandon their homes and most of their belongings at two hours notice in the Village of Gestashen, north of Karabakh, where their families had lived for 1 300 years. Relying entirely on assistance, they would consider returning if conditions allowed, but were resigned to remaining, for which they were hoping for compensation. A quar***ter of those displaced had since died of shock and stress.

5.7.       Visit to the UNHCR project at Echnizdin

37.       This income-generating chicken farm was established in June 1994 to provide twenty-five jobs for ethnic Armenians from Baku where their families had lived for nearly 800 years ("since before the establishment of Azerbaijan!"). They had been forced to move by the Soviet authorities in 1988 and 1989 taking only what they could carry. Unlike ethnic Azeris in Armenia who had been given time to sell their homes on being ordered to leave, ethnic Armenians from Azerbaijan have not been compensated for their property.

5.8.       Visits to the refugee centres in Hrazdan district, accompanied by Mr Surendra Panday, UNHCR Field Officer

38.       At a summer resort apartment block in Akhvirin housing seven refugee families your Rapporteur interviewed a 67-year old mother with daughters and three grandchildren who fled from Baku in 1989 following threats and discrimination, and who feels that she will never return. She hopes to obtain permanent accommodation in Armenia and receives United Nations food parcels to supplement an irregular government supply. There is an acute shortage of electricity. Her daughters have nothing to do; two husbands are in Russia, and the third is dead. The grandchildren must travel 5 km to school by bus in summer and by foot in winter, when there is a threat from wolves.

39.       At a nearby former state residential rest-centre for top officials, your Rapporteur spoke to a couple whose family of two children and two grandchildren were effectively deported from the Azeri territory of Nakhichevan in November 1988 by the Russians "for protection" and without compensation for their property. They would return if their safety were guaranteed but they do not expect to do so. Their applications to migrate to the United States of America have been turned down.

5.9.       Visit to the OXFAM refugee village at Arznik, Kotack district

40.       This houses over 100 families in Russian-built prefabricated cast-iron tubes, each with their own allotment. Your Rapporteur interviewed the leader of this community, a former director of a collective farm who fled from Gattashan in May 1991 after four years of threats and attacks, finally accepting deportation under Russian "protection" after being surrounded by Azeri tanks and twelve deaths. He would return if conditions permitted.

6. The situation in Azerbaijan6

41.       Between 10% and 15% of Azerbaijan's population are refugees or displaced, placing an enormous strain on society and the government.

42.       Despite its rich oil reserves and other natural resources, Azerbaijan is struggling to cope with the huge influx. Industrial output is at less than 65% of capacity. Nearly every public building in many areas has been turned into shelter for refugees and displaced people.

43.       Mr Hadi Rajabov, Head of the Department for Refugees and Displaced Persons in Baku, estimates that there are at least 100 000 people living in schools and educational institutions throughout Azerbaijan. At least 100 000 more are living in university dormitories. "Refugees are already occupying every empty building, every public building that has space," Mr Rajabov said. "It is already so crowded with refugees and displaced people that if there is one more influx, there will be a social explosion. I don't see how we can absorb even 5 000 more".

44.       Since establishing its office in Baku in December 1992, UNHCR has seen the number of refugees and displaced people in Azerbaijan swell from less than 500 000 to some 900 000. Although UNHCR's involvement in Azerbaijan initially began as a six-month programme, the Kelbajar emergency of April 1993 underscored the need for continuous emergency assistance as well as aid to previous arrivals. In 1993, fighting sparked at least five consecutive waves of displacement, prompting extension of the programme. UNHCR's support for calendar year 1994 continued to include provision of basic essentials and other urgently needed assistance for refugees and displaced in the areas of health, water and sanitation.

45.       UNHCR has provided thousands of tons of humanitarian supplies to Azerbaijan since late 1992. As of 1 June 1994, it had distributed — among other things — nearly 6 100 tents, 215 000 blankets, 16 100 sleeping bags, 11 metric tons of clothes, 19 000 pairs of shoes, 183 metric tons of soap and detergent, 2 500 metric tons of vegetable oil, 165 metric tons of tinned fish and beef, 53 metric tons of sugar, 9 metric tons of condensed milk and 17 metric tons of milk powder.

46.       The total number of refugees and displaced in Azerbaijan in July 1994 was estimated at approximately 900 000, out of a total population of more than 7 million. The refugee population is composed of 228 840 Azeris who fled Armenia, mostly in 1988. There are also some 50 000 Meshketian Turks who fled from Uzbekistan in 1989, a movement not connected to the war over Nagorno-Karabakh.

47.       Internally displaced Azeris, numbering at least 630 000, include:

      —25       0 000 from in and around Nagorno-Karabakh who fled between 1990-92;—

      — 6       0 000 from the Kelbajar region who fled in April 1993;—

      —12       0 000 from the Agdam region who fled in June-July 1993;—

      —12       0 000 from the Fizuli-Gebrayil region who fled in August 1993;—

      —an       d 50 000 from the Kubatly-Zangelan region who fled from August to October 1993.48

48.       The number of UNHCR beneficiaries — those considered most vulnerable and in need of assistance — increased from 53 000 when the programme was established in December 1992, to 300 000 in 1994. Some 42% of the beneficiary population are women and 15% are elderly. Most of the displaced are from rural areas.

49.       The majority of the displaced and refugee populations live with host families and in public buildings that have been turned into communal shelters. However, there has been near total saturation of public buildings, including schools.

50.       As a result, tens of thousands of displaced people now live in tent camps and settlements established by the Iranian and Turkish Red Crescent Societies and by a Saudi fund, or which sprung up spontaneously along roadsides near the front lines following the latest fighting in mid-1993.

51.       Conditions in many of the tent settlements set up spontaneously are very bad, even though many of the occupants were able to flee with their vehicles, a few domestic animals and other belongings. Sewage and water are a main concern in these areas, as well as protection from the cold during the winter months. UNHCR believes the provision of multi-purpose prefabricated shelters would best serve these people.

52.       In Azerbaijan UNHCR works in partnership or in co-ordination with such organisations as Médecins sans Frontičres, Oxfam, Relief International, International Rescue Committee, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, German GTZ, Iranian Red Crescent Society, Turkish Red Crescent Society, and the Saudi fund.

53.       UNHCR's funding requirements for Azerbaijan in 1994 totalled $ 8,5 million. The 1994 UNHCR programme in Azerbaijan included:

      —Do       mestic needs and household support. Provision of basic household items such as blankets, plastic sheeting, kitchen sets, soap, clothing and footwear.—

      —Co       ntinuation of water and sanitation projects begun in 1993.—

      —He       alth. UNHCR assisted local polyclinics through provision of hospital equipment and basic medical supplies. An outreach programme ensured widest possible basic health coverage for internally displaced persons.—

      —Sh       elter. Provision of multi-purpose pre-fabricated structures and a pilot self-help project to build locally constructed shelters to replace tents.—

      —Ed       ucation. UNHCR planned a programme to provide fully-equipped tent classrooms in areas where schools have been occupied by displaced people.—

      —In       come generation. Provision of basic farming tools and seeds to help families supplement their diets and sell excess produce on local markets.7.

7. Rapporteur's visit to Azerbaijan (14-17 November 1994)

7.1.       Meeting with Mr Kaisar Zarmen, UNHCR Field Officer-in-Charge

54.       Current numbers of displaced persons in Azerbaijan are 195 000 ethnic Azeris from Armenia, some 35 000 from Karabakh, the majority of whom would return with help and compensation for homes destroyed, and 50 000 Meskhetian Turks following the 1989 ethnic clashes in Uzbekistan wishing to return to Georgia. Many are sheltered in public buildings such as stadiums and schools as well as railway trucks, otherwise in totally inadequate tents provided by the Iranian Red Crescent, the United Nations and the European Union. There is an urgent need for prefabricated accommodation and facilities.

7.2.       Meeting with Mr Roberto Laurenti, UNICEF Resident Programme Officer

55.       In response to the emergency, UNICEF has provided drugs, vaccines, and cold storage equipment, followed by a five year plan for education and health to reverse a deteriorating situation. The needs of the remaining 80% of the population are as great as those of the refugees. The international community must accept that United Nations agencies will be needed in the area for a very long time. The longer the delay, the higher will be the cost.

7.3.       Meeting with Mr Fuad Gusseinov, Acting Head of WFP

56.       WFP undertakes food distribution projects for Azeri refugees from and around Karabakh, but has been experiencing transportation problems with consignments being stuck in Chechnya, through which the River Valga and other waterways flow. It is now purchasing ten diesel locomotives to provide rail transport between the Black Sea and Baku.

7.4.       Meeting with Mr Necmetting Ilhan, Acting Head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

57.       UNDP has a mandate for economic capacity building and technical assistance such as income generating projects: for example, carpet-making. It co-ordinates with the Ministry for the Economy and other United Nations agencies on infrastructure for a market economy, with the encouragement of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. Economic reform was being slowed by political instability and the conflict.

7.5.       Meeting with Mr David McLachlan-Karr, Head of the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs

58.       Great concern was expressed at the lack of shelter for the 1994-95 winter: 50 000 people will be living in inadequate tents, with a high fire risk from petrol heaters. Refugee occupation of schools is holding back education. There is therefore a need for prefabricated modular public buildings. A high-level government commission was required to deal directly with the United Nations. Concern was also expressed at the insensitivity of some food aid: for example, Danish pork (in a Muslim country); Italian apples which arrived rotten; Swiss cheese which was unacceptable because of its holes and smell.

7.6.       Meeting with Mr Bernhard Julier, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

59.       ICRC provides assistance programmes for the war wounded, including orthopaedic projects for the limbless in Baku. There have been problems over the return of hostages, held up because of local commanders reporting to two heads — Baku and local. Local activities in the Caucasus are underfunded — a new appeal is to be launched shortly.

7.7.       Meeting with Mr Gasunov, M.P., Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Refugees

60.       One in seven men in Azerbaijan is a refugee; one in seven refugees in the former USSR is an Azeri. There are over one million refugees from the Karabakh area in Armenia, plus the Meskhetian Turks. Sixty thousand are in old and inadequate tents. Conditions are deteriorating due to the Russian blockade and obstacles. Two hundred thousand Armenians have left Azerbaijan, some of whom have sold their homes to several buyers!

7.8.       Visit to the Iranian Red Crescent refugee camp near Imisly

61.       In October 1994 the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies took over from the Iranian Red Crescent Society responsibility for eight camps in southern Azerbaijan, providing shelter, care and food for over 40 000 people in 8 000 tents. Tents are approximately 3m x 6m, housing two adults and five children. Many are not weatherproof [but see paragraph 68 below]. They are equipped with one light bulb and petrol heating stoves, which have caused several fire tragedies. Children go to a tent school, with no heating, tables or chairs. Your Rapporteur was told that many have died from the cold, diarrhoea and diphtheria. The IFRC provides rice, tea, sugar, flour and canned fish. Your Rapporteur was told of Azeri refugees fleeing advancing Armenian troops and tanks by crossing the Arak River into Iran, in which many drowned. There are reports of Armenian atrocities (rape, etc.) and of suicides as well as of buildings, equipment, and cultural heritage being removed.

7.9.       Meeting with Mr Khanhussayn Baylarov, Chief of Imisly District Authority

62.       Seventy-six thousand ethnic Azeris fled from Armenia in 1988; 14 000 from Karabakh in 1991 and 100 000 in 1993, most via Iran. Assistance is being provided by United Nations agencies, the European Union, Iranian Red Crescent Society, IFRC, and NGOs such as CARE and Oxfam. The provision of food is insufficient; tents provide totally inadequate shelter in winter, and malaria, diphtheria, diarrhoea and cholera are rife. "Half of these refugees will die this winter".

8. Conclusions

63.       Your Rapporteur has no doubt that Armenia and Azerbaijan face extremely serious problems at the present time which deserve far greater appreciation and response from Europe than is currently the case. These problems apply not just to the estimated total refugee and displaced person population of 1,65 million in both countries but to 80% of their entire population. They stem not just from the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh but from the widespread deterioration of the economies of both countries following their independence from the former Soviet Union. To this situation must be added the unresolved consequences of the Armenian earthquake of 1988.

64.       Of course, many will suggest that the humanitarian situation in the former Yugoslavia, most notably that of Bosnia-Herzegovina, deserves greater priority, being more closely related to Europe. The Assembly's decision on enlargement to include the Caucasus and the applications of the countries concerned for special guest status now place their situation in the same category as the former Yugoslavia. Member states should respond accordingly.

65.       As this report attempts to point out, much good work is already being done, initially by non-governmental organisations of which Christian Solidarity International (CSI) — not reported here — represents a fine example with over twenty deliveries of humanitarian aid to Karabakh led by the courageous Baroness Cox — most of them during the conflict. Your Rapporteur is privileged to have accompanied one such convoy to Stepanakert in July 1992.

66.       Over the past two years the United Nations and its agencies have become established in the Caucasus, not only in response to the appeals of the governments concerned, but encouraged by the United States of America which has appreciated that the vacuum of power in the region has already been filled by Russia in Georgia and Armenia, and threatens to do so in Azerbaijan.

67.       Today, many of the most vulnerable of those displaced are receiving hardship relief, in the provision of which agencies are working closely with government departments and local authorities. Moreover, specialist United Nations agencies are planning medium and long-term programmes to improve infrastructure, are organising income-generating projects, and are advising and assisting governments on the transition to market economies, decentralisation and the more efficient provision of health and education.

68.       Whilst the majority live with host families and in public buildings, tens of thousands of the more recently displaced live in tent camps and settlements. For these, as your Rapporteur saw in both countries, protection from the cold is totally inadequate, leading him to the conclusion that many of these people would die this winter. The immediate provision of prefabricated accommodation to replace tents, and more substantial supplies of food and heating fuel is necessary and urgent. Fortunately, since the Rapporteur's visit, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reports that it has been able, through participating national societies and other donors, to renew the tent stock and generally improve shelter and heating conditions.

69.       Nevertheless, it is clear that international assistance to both countries will be required for many years to come as the need for emergency relief is overtaken by rehabilitation and development. That is why your Rapporteur, during his meetings with officials in Geneva, Yerevan and Baku, pursued his proposal for the establishment of a United Nations agency dedicated to the entire Caucasus, operating perhaps from headquarters in Tbilisi, along the lines of the successful UNRWA for Palestine.

70.       Your Rapporteur wishes to pay tribute to the inspiring and dedicated work of all those involved in the United Nations agencies, the ICRC, the IFRC and other NGOs in the Caucasus without whom the situation of the more than one million displaced would undoubtedly be even more tragic. He particularly wishes to thank those whom he met for briefings and site visits for their ready assistance and hospitality; and especially Mr Robert Robinson, UNHCR Head Office in Yerevan and Mr Mahmoud El-Said, United Nations Representative in Baku. He also wishes to record the invaluable work of his two assistants during his visits — Mr Jason Francis for Geneva and Armenia, and Mr Andrew Hull for Azerbaijan: both made invaluable contributions to the preparation of this report and its recommendations.

71.       This report is the third produced by the Council of Europe which refers to the situation in the Caucasus. Your Rapporteur hopes that its recommendation and resolution will contribute to a greater European understanding, interest and involvement in the region in advance of the further reports that are to follow on the applications for special guest status from the three countries concerned. He hopes too, that the outcome of this report will also encourage the parties involved in the various conflicts which have resulted in so many deaths, disabled and displaced to accept that principle which member states of the Council of Europe are committed to uphold: that peaceful discussion is the only just way to resolve disputes.

APPENDIX

Map of the Caucasus

(UNHCR Information Bulletin — July 1994)

      Reporting committee: Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography.

      Committees for opinion: Political Affairs Committee and Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries.

      Budgetary implications for the Assembly: none.

      Origin: Doc. 6891 and Reference No. 1888 of 3 September 1993.

      Draft resolution and recommendation unanimously adopted by the committee on 2 February 1995.

      Members of the committee: Mrs Aguiar (Chairperson), Mr Cucó, Sir John Hunt (Vice-Chairmen), MM. Andres (Alternate: Haack), Akselsen, Mrs Arnold, Mrs Ástgeirsdóttir, MM. Attard Montalto, Biefnot, Billing, van den Bos, Branger, Mrs Brasseur, MM. Brennan, Brito, Dolazza, Ehrmann (Alternate: Schreiner), Fuhrmann (Alternate: Mrs Stoisits), Galanos, Ghesquičre, Golu, Gotzev, Gross, Mrs Hacklin, MM. Iuliano, Iwinski, Junghanns, Kalus, Kapsis (Alternate: Korakas), Kiliç, Kiratlioǧlu (Alternate: Ms Özver), Lord Kirkhill, MM. Laanoja, Lauricella, Leitner, Liapis, Loutfi (Alternate: Mrs Mihaylova), Mészáros, Pastuszka, Mrs Robert, MM. Saudargas (Alternate: Zingeris), Školč, Mrs Soutendijk-van Appeldoorn, Mrs Theorin, MM. Tkáč (Alternate: Mrs Bieliková), Trojan, Vázquez.

      N.B.       The names of those members present at the meeting are printed in italics.

      Secretaries to the committee: MM. Newman and Sich.


1 1These are reproduced from the UNHCR Information Bulletin of July 1994.

2 1 1. The Rapporteur has used the UNHCR Information Bulletin of July 1994 for this section and sections 4 and 6.

3 2Nevertheless, the Rapporteur wishes to record that the international humanitarian organisation with the longest presence in the region is the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), which established a delegation in Armenia at the time of the 1988 earthquake. Delegations were established in Georgia and Azerbaijan in spring 1993. IFRC humanitarian programmes totalled US$ 25 million in the three countries in 1994.

4 1See footnote 1, page 8.

5 2This figure includes 75 000 also assisted by the IFRC.

6 1See footnote 1, page 8.