Azerbaijan: Armed Conflict, Pandemic, and Immigration Detention

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Azerbaijan lauds the operations at its immigration detention centres, which opened less than a decade ago. But with civil society tightly controlled, there are few independent reports detailing detention conditions. Important monitoring bodies like the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture have also yet to fully investigate this issue. However, there have been allegations of abuse at these centres. In the meantime, Azerbaijan’s protracted conflict with Armenia—which flared up in late 2020—has resulted in burgeoning displacement levels. While there have been efforts to assist internally displaced people, there are long-standing concerns over the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, including accusations of refoulement and inadequate asylum procedures. After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities reported implementing some protective measures, including temporarily halting the placement of people in immigration detention.

Introduction to the 2020 Report

After gaining independence in 1991, Azerbaijan became a country of emigration as large numbers of people departed due to political and economic uncertainty in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse. The country also experienced growing populations of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, resulting in part from its long-standing conflict with Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory. As the country’s economy revived—largely a result of the growth of the oil and gas sectors—fewer people emigrated and more immigrated, including people from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, India, and other countries in Asia and the Caucasus.

The country adopted a “State Migration Management Policy Concept” in 2004, the purpose of which was to formulate a policy that would assess and manage migration. This was subsequently followed by a State Migration Programme (2006-2008), which sought to develop the country’s legislation to ensure it met international norms and standards, implement measures to prevent illegal immigration and human trafficking, and introduce quotas within the field of labour migration (among other goals). In 2013 the country’s migration policies were unified and overhauled with the introduction of the Migration Code, which was bolstered in 2014 with a chapter regulating migration detention operations.

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