Celebrating 25 Years of Scoop
Special: Up To 25% Off Scoop Pro Learn More

World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


UNHCR Increasingly Concerned For Refugees Fleeing Karabakh Region

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) raised concerns on Tuesday over the movement of a large number of civilians to Armenia as a result of the recent hostilities in the region.

Some 19,000 refugees have reportedly left the Karabakh Economic Region of the Republic of Azerbaijan, including many elderly people, women and children.

UNHCR Spokesperson Shabia Mantoo called on all sides to protect civilians and to fully respect international humanitarian refugee law allowing them safe passage.

All parties must “refrain from actions that would cause displacement of civilians and ensure their safety, security and human rights and nobody should be forced to flee their homes”, said Ms. Mantoo, speaking during a scheduled UN agency briefing in Geneva.

Conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region has persisted for more than three decades, but a ceasefire and subsequent Trilateral Statement was agreed almost three years ago following six weeks of fighting, by the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, leading to the deployment of several thousand Russian peacekeepers.

Amid last week’s flare-up in fighting and the arrival of the first refugees in Armenia, UN Secretary-General António Guterres through his Spokesperson called for fully-fledged access for aid workers to people in need.

De-escalation call

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

The UN chief also called for de-escalation “in the strongest terms” and “stricter” observance of the 2020 ceasefire, and principles of international humanitarian law.

Echoing Mr. Guterres’ appeal, UNHCR’s Ms. Mantoo explained that amid the “complex and multicultural” situation, access to asylum must be maintained for people in need of international protection “to ensure that people are treated humanely, that their rights are protected and respected, and that they can access the protection and safety that they need”.

Support is also needed for countries at the front lines that are receiving people in need of protection, Ms. Mantoo said.

The UNHCR official also called for “alternatives for a legal stay”, and an “expansion of regular and safe pathways so people don't have to risk their lives and that we don't see these types of backlogs and pressures”.

International solidarity call

She reiterated that the regional response requires international solidarity and a concerted effort by all States and stakeholders.

Regarding UNHCR’s teams on the ground in Armenia, Ms. Mantoo explained that they were monitoring the situation closely.

People were “suffering the effects of trauma and exhaustion and need urgent psychosocial support” Ms. Mantoo said, adding that the government of Armenia was leading the response and was expected to appeal to the international community for further support.

For its part, the UN agency has also provided assistance, including non-food items, portable beds, mattresses and bedding. “There is also a need for shelter, warm clothing and other essential non-food items. And we're mobilizing further assistance and coordinating with local government and partners to respond to the increasing needs,” she added.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
World Headlines


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.