YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees Sadako Ogata met Thursday with Armenian Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan on the first day of her three-day visit to Armenia. The press service of the Armenian government said Ogata discussed with Sargsyan the plight of thousands of ethnic Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan.
According to official figures–some 340,000 Armenia’s from Azerbaijan took refuge in Armenia from 1988 to 1992 in the face of an intensifying conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. An estimated 800,000 Azeris have also been displaced as a result.
The UN’s policy has been to help the refugees’ naturalization and integration in Armenian society. But an economic decline in Armenia that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union has been a severe hindrance to those efforts. Many refugees still lack adequate housing and jobs and are reluctant to accept Armenian citizenship for fear of losing their scarce benefits.
Ogata is reported to have backed Sargsyan’s idea to develop a "joint program to find a final solution to the problems facing the refugees." Sargsyan also thanked the head of the UN agency for all its assistance.
The UN High Commission on Refugees has an office in Yerevan. Ogata is due to visit several refugee settlemen’s on Friday.