RCDS Insights: Mass Exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh

RCDS Insights: Mass Exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh

Photo credits: Gabriel Gavin




What: Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians have started a mass exodus into Armenia.


Context: It has been 24 hours since Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians began leaving the territory. Thousands have already entered Armenia through the Lachin Corridor, while many more are stuck in traffic jams on the road. It is clear that these numbers will rapidly increase in the coming days. Most people have left with only a few belongings. They are desperately trying to find cars and fuel to leave. The Nagorno-Karabakh government’s priority is currently focused on organizing the evacuation of internally displaced people who have fled from other regions to Stepanakert. The rest of the population is attempting to evacuate on their own. 


The government pledged to provide free gasoline at gas stations, but long queues have formed. Vulnerable groups, such as elderly individuals without families, have no one to rely on except the government, which has promised to organize their evacuation. Limited information is available from parts of Nagorno-Karabakh that were captured by Azerbaijani forces during the recent attacks. The evacuation of these people is also a top priority.


Challenges: The influx of thousands of forcibly displaced people will pose a significant challenge for Armenia. Many of these individuals do not have their own accommodations or relatives to stay within the country. Providing suitable housing for such a large number of people is a difficult task, and it is crucial to consider long-term settlement plans. Additionally, the displaced population will require job opportunities. It remains uncertain whether there is a long-term integration strategy in place for this population in Armenia.


It is also a significant challenge that international actors have been excessively focusing on domestic political developments instead of addressing the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe. While these domestic processes are important, they are of lesser importance compared to the humanitarian disaster. Armenian domestic affairs should be left to the Armenian people.


What Can Be Done: 


  1. To address the humanitarian problem, it is crucial to utilize all available political and diplomatic tools to save lives and prevent punitive measures against segments of the Nagorno-Karabakh population. To ensure progress, it is crucial to actively participate in this process instead of relying solely on the Armenian government to take the initiative. The government has often been slow and lacking strategic action. Immediate action should be taken now. 
  2. Large-scale humanitarian relief is needed to help the Armenian government address the challenges mentioned above, both in the short term and the long term. International aid agencies, as well as the EU, should promptly provide financial assistance to Armenia to effectively manage this crisis.
  3. UN agencies such as UNHCR, UNICEF, OCHA, and OHCHR should fulfill their role in this situation. However, their presence on the ground has been minimal thus far. The WFP is the only organization that we are aware of that has actively been involved in addressing the humanitarian crisis thus far.