Refugee Legislation Discussed at Istanbul Conference

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–A conference of non-governmental organizations of the CIS countries with the participation of territorial missions of the UNHCR on issues of human rights and legislation on refugees took place in Istanbul–Turkey–from July 28-August 1. Armenian NGOs were represented by the Armenian Human Rights Protection Center after A. D. Sakharov.

Among other problems–the Sakharov Center raised the issue of persons of Armenian nationality who migrated to Armenia during the period of the USSR’s collapse from various republics–fleeing from armed conflicts that broke out there. The problem is that unlike the refugees from Azerbaijan–these people did not receive the status of refugees and are considered to be illegal migran’s. While many procedures by law are simplified for refugees from Azerbaijan–including the procedure of acquiring citizenship or travel documen’s–the process of acquiring any document is complicated for illegal migran’s. No statistics is made on the registration of such migran’s. According to the observations of human rights activists–only local government bodies attend to them. They help them solve problems of exclusively domestic level. They cannot leave for other countries. According to the Center’s Director Levon Nersissian–no state structure attends to these people–although they need urgent assistance from the state.

Another vital issue raised at the conference concerns refugees from Azerbaijan–who came to Armenia but later left it because of heavy social conditions. Their problem is in the absence of a document certifying their refugee status under the Convention on Refugees–which started to be issued only after the adoption of the Law on Refugees in 1999. The documen’s they possess are–in fact–registration cards and are not recognized as legal in other countries.

The UNHCR Armenia Office explained that the given problem is not in the zone of responsibility of their mission–as it becomes a problem of re-emigration and can be solved through the mediation of Armenia’s embassies in the countries to where refugees left. According to the UNHCR Public Information Assistant Emil Sahakian–re-emigran’s can get a certificate about repatriation from the Armenian embassy–on the basis of which they can acquire Armenian citizenship. The certificate has a certain time-limit of effect–for the expiration of which penalty sanctions are imposed.

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