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UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Armenia


UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Armenia

1 December 1998

Basic Facts

What we do

Promote and assist in the development of a legal framework and implementing procedures in accordance with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees; assist governmental bodies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in building their capacities to assume the full responsibility to manage refugee-related matters; provide assistance and shelter to refugees with special needs (including those who are in the process of acquiring citizenship), such as the elderly, the disabled, women and children; and assist ethnic-Armenian refugees in obtaining citizenship.

Who we help

311,000 mainly ethnic-Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan.

Our requirements

US$ 4,073,667

Our offices


Our partners

The Ministry of Social Security, Oxfam, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), United Methodist Church, Mission Armenia, Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), Armenian Red Cross Society, Fund Against Violation Of Law, Future Generation (FG), The NGO Training and Resource Centre, Fund Against Violation of Law (FAVOL), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Armenian Red Cross Society (ARC/IFRC), National Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (NCDHR).


Inter-ethnic tension in Azerbaijan and Armenia, coupled with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, resulted in an influx of more than 330,000 ethnic-Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan during 1988-1992. A joint UNHCR/government survey, conducted in 1997, concluded that there are 311,000 refugees and internally displaced persons registered in Armenia. Some 64,000 of them have temporarily left the country, mainly for Russia, due to the difficult economic situation in Armenia.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Armenian people have struggled through tough economic conditions aggravated by a severe earthquake in 1988 and an energy blockade linked to the military confrontation in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. The sudden change of political system and the transition to a competitive market economy has led to a sharp decline in living standards. More than 75 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line. This situation obviously affects refugees who are largely dependent on government welfare. Since a cease-fire came into effect in 1994, the situation has been generally calm on the front line, although there are recurrent reports of skirmishes and instances of shelling in border areas. Despite the continuing efforts of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, there is still no political resolution to the question of Nagorno-Karabakh. Both parties to the conflict, however, have repeatedly expressed their support of the cease-fire and settlement through negotiations.

Protection and Solutions


Promoting the adoption of relevant legislation in accordance with international standards has been UNHCR's primary work. Armenia acceded to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol in 1993. A Citizenship Law has been in place since 1995; but due to inadequate implementation mechanisms, legal obstacles and psychological barriers, few refugees have obtained citizenship. Through the concerted efforts of UNHCR, the Government, and NGOs, legal problems surrounding refugees' acquisition of citizenship have, to a large degree, been solved. UNHCR has also made good progress in promoting and helping the Government develop a draft Refugee Law. The draft has been submitted to Parliament and is expected to be adopted before the end of 1998.

Persons fleeing from Azerbaijan have been given prima facie refugee status, while asylum-seekers from other regions have so far been left in a legal limbo with no documentation nor procedures for processing their claims.


Naturalization is the best durable solution for most of the refugees from Azerbaijan; but many refugees have been and remain reluctant to acquire Armenian citizenship. They fear losing possible compensation for what they left behind in Azerbaijan and losing humanitarian assistance. UNHCR and the Government will continue the large-scale information campaign that addresses these issues and will help refugees throughout the country acquire citizenship. In 1999, local legal NGOs will be trained in offering legal counselling to asylum-seekers. UNHCR will also help the Government raise awareness of refugee issues among border authorities and other government bodies.

Counselling Refugees and Asylum-Seekers

UNHCR and the Department for Migration and Refugee Affairs have begun joint sessions for interviewing and counselling refugees and asylum-seekers on matters of eligibility, legal issues and social services. It is hoped that by the end of 1999, legislation will be in place and the Government will have developed a structure to operate on its own, with only limited assistance from UNHCR.


The emergency phase is over. UNHCR's activities now focus on achieving long-term sustainability. Though the core concerns of these refugees are, to a large extent, related to the general social and economic conditions in Armenia, there is still a need for assistance programmes that help the most vulnerable groups among the refugees, such as the elderly, the disabled and female-headed households. Assistance includes shelter rehabilitation, education, health care, income-generation, micro-credit, husbandry and agriculture.


Forty-three per cent of the 1999 operation budget will go towards shelter. In 1998, UNHCR obtained an agreement with the Government to rehabilitate and remodel existing/abandoned residential buildings for refugee accommodation. Refugees are also encouraged to maintain their houses with repair kits and self-help schemes. In 1999, UNHCR will pursue this policy and advocate privatizing houses in favour of refugees. Special attention will be given to refugees living in Communal Centres in Yerevan and other major cities. UNHCR's assistance programme will gradually be consolidated with development plans of other international organizations (such as the World Bank, UNDP and UNICEF) and national programmes.

Focus on the elderly

More than 30 per cent of the refugee population in Armenia is over 60 years old. To a large degree, they depend on outside care. Those living in collective centres have no access to primary and emergency health care or social support, though individual care and services are given to bed-ridden and the most vulnerable elderly persons. UNHCR will design a community support programme that will be linked to the national welfare system in an effort to avoid long-term dependency on UNHCR assistance. To that end, UNHCR will work to build the capacities of central and local authorities to assume responsibility for the care of these refugees.

Refugee Women

A large number of able-bodied male refugees have left the country in search of employment. In doing so, many of them have abandoned their wives and children. Local and refugee women now represent 70 per cent of the unemployed work force; and many of them must provide for children. The scarcity of jobs has forced some women to turn to begging or prostitution to support themselves and their families. Consequently, sexually transmitted diseases are prevalent and abortion is common. UNHCR, in close collaboration with the Ministries of Health and Social Security, UNFPA, UNICEF and various NGOs, are designing projects that address women's specific needs.

Refugee Children

Refugee children have equal access to education as local children. But decreasing Government expenditure on education has led to a decline in the quality of education throughout the country. In remote refugee-populated areas, with little or no Government resources, UNHCR, through its NGO partners, has been establishing community-based school management systems, upgrading teacher training, and improving hygienic conditions at selected primary schools. UNHCR plans to assist up to 20 schools in remote areas during 1999.


Because of the energy embargo and harsh winters, many refugee communities have resorted to cutting trees for fuel. In 1998, the World Food Programme (WFP), in collaboration with UNHCR, implemented several community-based tree-planting and irrigation programmes as Food for Work schemes. These programmes will continue through 1999 in certain locations.


UNHCR is actively promoting a dialogue with its partners, including development agencies, to ensure a smooth transition to the post-emergency phase and an inter-agency division of labour.

Budget US$

ActivitiesGeneral ProgrammesSpecial Programmes
Water Supply175,000
Shelter/Other Infrastructures1,330,000
Community Services45,000242,978
Legal Assistance/Protection70,000307,034
Agency Operational Support35,000115,000
Programme Delivery Costs*145,300539,684
Administrative Support138,681
TOTAL GP + SP4,073,667

* Includes costs for protection, monitoring and coordination.