More than 65,000 refugees have now fled Nagorno-Karabakh into Armenia, as of September 28, following the breakaway territory's surrender to the Azerbaijan army last week.
The figure is more than half of the overall population of the ethnic Armenians in the region, which stands at about 120,000.
Armenians have lived in the Nagorno-Karabakh region for more than 2,000 years, and have been fighting since the collapse of the Soviet Union for independence from Azerbaijan. They won de facto self-rule in the early 1990s but their position become untenable after further fighting in 2020 and, after peace talks, the statelet will cease to exist in January.
The refugees are exiting through the Lachin corridor, which Azerbaijan had blockaded until recently. It is the only route that refugees can use to exit Nagorno-Karabakh towards Armenia.
Many of the refugees fleeing to Armenia require medical attention, with the Armenian government and international community attempting to provide adequate medical aid and personnel. The medical situation was already a burden on the Armenian medical system before a gas depot explosion on September 25 killed 68 people and injured hundreds.
The United States and the European Union have pledged to give almost €24 in aid to help with the humanitarian crisis. The head of the United States Agency for International Development Samantha Power visited Armenia as a response to the crisis, and the United States has pledged to provide “shelter and essential supplies – such as hygiene kits, blankets, and clothing – to address the needs of those affected or displaced by violence in Nagorno-Karabakh”.
Despite Armenia’s best efforts, caring for over 100,000 refugees will be no easy matter, and has already been difficult. The Armenian government is providing some refugees with free housing, but as the number of refugees grows, it will prove difficult to provide it to all of them. The government will assist refugees by giving out food stamps, and may also provide them with compensation to pay for their electricity for the coming winter. The labour and social affairs minister said that the service will be available to every refugee.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on September 28 that there will soon be no Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh. "The exodus of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians as a result of the ethnic cleansing policy implemented by Azerbaijan continues. This is an act of depatriation, something we have been telling the international community for a long time," said Pashinyan.
"As far as the Armenian government is concerned, today we should first of all, if possible, carefully welcome our brothers and sisters forcibly displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh and provide them with the most necessary things," Pashinyan added.