Armenia struggles to assist refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh

FILE Ethnic armenian refugee camp in Goris in Syunik region, Armenia, Sept. 29, 2023.
FILE Ethnic armenian refugee camp in Goris in Syunik region, Armenia, Sept. 29, 2023. Copyright AP/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Daniel Bellamy
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More than 100,000 ethnic Armenian refugees need to find warm housing before the winter sets in.


In the town of Masis in Armenia, which lies on the border with Turkey,  around 10,000 ethnic Armenian refugees from the Nagorno Karabakh region are being processed by the local authorities.

The Red Cross is also located in the town hall building, where it works to identify the assistance the new arrivals need. Nearby there are rooms where people can collect clothes and other items donated by local people, ands there's also a food distribution point. 

The refugees need to register so they can get monthly assistance payments from the Armenian government, but it's a gargantuan task for the officials of a small town that itself only has a population of around 20,000.

Recognising that there will be no immediate solution to the refugee crisis, the Armenian government has decided to give each refugee a one-off allowance of 236 euros and later a monthly allowance of 118 euros to help pay for rent and food.

"They do help us here and take great care of us," said one refugee, of the assistance she's received.

"But it still hurts, it hurts a lot. Our family cemetery remained there, everything remained there," she added.

Israel's involvement in the conflict

Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of ethnic cleansing, which it denies. Azerbaijan's military launched an attack on the Nagorno-Karabkh region on September 19th, killing around 200 Armenian fighters and scaring almost the entire ethnic Armenian population into fleeing to neighbouring Armenia. About 200 Azerbaijani fighters were also killed, according to officials.

Azerbaijan was helped by Israel when, just weeks before Azerbaijan launched its attack its military cargo planes repeatedly flew between a southern Israeli airbase and an airfield near Nagorno-Karabakh, according to flight tracking data and Armenian diplomats.

Experts estimate Israel supplied Azerbaijan with nearly 70% of its weapons arsenal between 2016 and 2020 — giving Azerbaijan an edge against Armenia and boosting Israel’s large defence industry.

Israel has a big stake in Azerbaijan, which serves as a critical source of oil and is a staunch ally against Israel’s archenemy Iran. It is also a lucrative customer of sophisticated arms.

In the previous conflict in 2020 Turkey supplied Azerbaijan with military drones, which experts said helped it capture parts of Nagorno-Karabakh, including the second city of Shusha.

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