I will return to Azerbaijan as a tourist - Furio De Angelis - PHOTO - VIDEO | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

22 March, Friday

I will return to Azerbaijan as a tourist - Furio De Angelis - PHOTO - VIDEO

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In an interview with Eurasia Diary, UNHCR Representative to Azerbaijan Furio De Angelis shared his impression about Azerbaijan and his two-year experience in this rank, as his mission came to an end. 
Eurasia Diary: First of all, let me thank you for your time and your sincere agreement to give an interview to us. When you were appointed the UNHCR Representative of Azerbaijan in 2016, you had some idea about the situation with refugees and IDPs in the country, kindly inform us on how your expectations meet the reality?
Furio De Angelis: Thank you for asking questions and giving me time to speak reflecting on how I spent my two years  of work as the representative of UNHCR. Clearly, when I came to Azerbaijan I was aware of the serious situation affecting the IDPs since the time of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It started during the early years of the country’s independence. This is unquestionably a situation essential to UNHCR as it deals with Internally Displaced People. The government has done so much in trying to improve the living conditions of IDPs. Recently we noticed the construction of houses by the government which accommodated more than one thousand families in the Garadagh district here in Baku.
There is a link between the problems faced by internally displaced people in Azerbaijan and conflicts. UNHCR is not part of the political solution of the dispute, it is just an international mechanism which is chaired by Minsk group of OSCE. But UNHCR is there to support the government and reminding the international community that there is the need for an urgent solution, a resolution based on peaceful practices to the prolonged disagreement. It is urgent because we need to realize that displaced persons have their right to return home as soon as possible.
Eurasia Diary: How can you describe the period you worked in Azerbaijan?
Furio De Angelis: I can describe this period as the period of great cooperation and hard work with the government. I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all different government departments, the cabinet of Ministers, state committees, different academic institutions, ADA University to mention just a few. Admittedly, we did much work together where we put certain mechanism and tried to open up ways of improving the situation of IDPs and also of refugees in the country.
Eurasia Diary: In your own opinion, how is Azerbaijan dealing with refugees from other countries taking into account that the country has more than 1 million refugees and IDPs caused by Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
Furio De Angelis: As I mentioned before, from the very beginning the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains the most important issue that Azerbaijan faced from its origins.  
Azerbaijan is also the country which receives refugees from other countries in the region and far away areas. They come seeking safety and protection from their national conflicts. Azerbaijan has asylum system keeping the border open for people who are coming to the country seeking for asylum.
UNHCR is also dealing with refugees coming from other countries. I have to appreciate the work we did with State Migration Service and other government departments in trying to improve the asylum system that exists in Azerbaijan. We are trying to give more possibilities, more chances and access to services to the refugees in Azerbaijan so as to improve their capacities and to be able to sustain themselves and their families through productive work. We tried to improve the possibility of refugees living in Azerbaijan to be productive elements of the society so that they will not be seen as a burden to the country. Actually, if they are allowed to work they would be able to contribute more because refugees bring their own resources and skills, but most importantly they show a willingness to live in the society which hosts them and they want to contribute in developing it.
And I really believe that with the good cooperation that we have at the moment with the government department and most importantly with state migration services we will possibly do it! 
The largest number of refugees in Azerbaijan is coming from Afghanistan, the country with very long protracted conflict. Other refugees are coming from Chechnya, Iran, Sri Lanka and from Pakistan. There are a variety of people who are coming to Azerbaijan for certain reasons. Not all these reasons are related to refugee status that is why the work we are doing together with State migration service is to identify all foreigners who are coming to Azerbaijan seeking protection.
Eurasia Diary: As you previously mentioned that UNHCR cooperates with government structures and other international organizations, is there cooperation with NGOs and civil society sector? Tell us also about international support.
Furio De Angelis: It is very important because the work of UNHCR is not absolutely possible to be done in isolation.We are very pleased to have several projects and being contacted with academical institutions like ADA University, Baku University in trying to raise awareness and inform the students of the importance of supporting refugees around the world. 
As you know the refugee movement is a global phenomenon and there are important processes that are taking place at this moment, which aims at creating a more organized system to react and to respond to refugee movements. There is the process which will bring next general assembly resolution to approve the global compact of refugees which is a model in which the international community will be able to respond better and more coordinated with more international solidarity and responsibility of sharing the problems of refugees. And without doubt, Azerbaijan will play a big role in the process, because Azerbaijan is the country which knows displacement, receives refugees, has an asylum system in place – has all conditions to be an important contributor to the process of the global combat on refugees.
Eurasia Diary: After the successful completion of your work in Azerbaijan, what are you forward planning? Kindly let our readers know about your future steps.
Furio De Angelis: I have to say that I’ve done 30 years of work with UNHCR so I’m actually taking my retirement. I will retire from UNHCR and I will return to my homeland, Rome in Italy. 
Unquestionably I will remain active. I have a number of ideas in my mind but I would like to take some rest and spend some time with my family. The 30 years of an international civil servant cannot be forgotten easily. I hope I will find the way to remain active and engaged in this area. 
Eurasia Diary: Thank you very much for such an interesting interview. We would like to wish you success in your future, once again thank you for considering Eurasia Diary.
Furio De Angelis: I think I will return to Azerbaijan because I’ve been here for two years and I have found it a very interesting country. I know it from the professional side but I would like to know it as a tourist.
I have to say this truth; Azerbaijan has the largest value on its people. The politeness, welcoming and warm of the people is really colorful, from the city to the country-side. It’s probably Azerbaijan’s best recourse.
Natalia Guliyeva

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