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To the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev
To the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin
To the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres
To the Director General of the International Organization for Migration, António Vitorino
To the Director-General of the International Labor Organization, Guy Ryder
To the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić
To the OSCE Secretary General, Thomas Greminger
To the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir
To the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet
To the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović
To the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adan Gebreyesus
To the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe González Morales
To the Council of Europe Special Representative on Migration and Refugees, Drahoslav Štefánek
Dear all,
A humanitarian crisis erupted on the land border between Russia and Azerbaijan: thousands of Azerbaijani migrant workers who lost their jobs in Russia, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and wish to return to their homeland in Azerbaijan, found themselves in a paradoxically difficult situation – they are not allowed to return to their own country. At this moment, all of them urgently need your help.

These Azerbaijani citizens arrived at the border through their own efforts and at their own expenses without even requesting any evacuation means from the state, but the Azerbaijani authorities refuse to let them enter, stating the special quarantine regime in Azerbaijan as cause. At the request of the Azerbaijani government, Russian authorities are illegally detaining thousands of Azerbaijani citizens, preventing them from leaving the Russian territory even into the neutral zone between the borders with Azerbaijan.

Currently, about 700 000 Azerbaijani labor migrants are officially registered in Russia, about 20% of which lost their jobs and want to return to their homes in Azerbaijan to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic. About 10 000 people have already gathered at the border, in the Republic of Dagestan, out of which about 1000 people live in a specially created tented camp; about 300 more are spending their nights under the open sky in degrading to human dignity and honor conditions. Women, children and the elderly are affected by these inhuman conditions the most.

On June 15, about 500 labor migrants that, for more than two months, have been hopelessly waiting for the problem to be resolved in order to return home, began a protest rally that was brutally suppressed by Russian law enforcement agencies. About 200 Azerbaijani citizens suffered physical injuries of varying degrees of severity; about 100 people were detained, of whom 90 were put under administrative arrest and criminal cases were opened against 10 more. After the protest, the Azerbaijani authorities increased the weekly quota of people allowed to cross the border from 120 to 250 people, bringing the throughput quota to 1000 people per month. Given that about 150 000 Azerbaijani labor migrants in Russia lost their jobs and livelihoods and want to return to their homes as soon as possible, the migration crisis will only degrade. It is expected that the situation of migrants could be further worsened by a possible second, third and even fourth wave of COVID-19 spread.

The Republic of Azerbaijan, as a member of the United Nations (UN), the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the International Organization for Migration, is grossly violating its international obligations, its obligations towards its citizens, the Constitution of Azerbaijan and the national legislation by not letting its own citizens return to the country.

The Russian Federation as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the Council of Europe and the OSCE, is also violating its international obligations, its Constitution and its laws by not letting Azerbaijani citizens leave the Russian territory.

Azerbaijan is the common and indivisible motherland of all citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The Constitution of Azerbaijan (Article 28, part 4) states: Any citizen of the Republic of Azerbaijan has the right to return to his country at any time.

The Constitution of the Russian Federation (Article 27, part 4) states: Everyone may freely leave the Russian Federation.

The Protocol nr.4 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms(Article 3, paragraph 2) states: No one shall be deprived of the right to enter the territory of the state of which he is a national.

The UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 12) states: (Paragraph 2) Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own; and (Paragraph 4) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.

The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 13, paragraph 2) states: Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

The Concluding document of the third follow-up meeting of the OSCE in Vienna, 1989 states: The participating States will respect fully the right of everyone - to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State, and - to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted by the General Assembly of the UN in 2016 states that the States of origin/nationality have to acknowledges that everyone has the right to leave any country, including his or her own, and to return to his or her country, respect this right and also respect the obligation to receive back their nationals, which should occur in a safe, dignified and humane manner and with full respect for human rights in accordance with obligations under international law.

The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, adopted by a resolution of the UN General Assembly in 1990, states: Migrant workers and members of their families shall be free to leave any State, including their State of origin. Migrant workers and members of their families shall have the right at any time to enter and remain in their State of origin. The right to life of migrant workers and members of their families shall be protected by law. No migrant worker or member of his or her family shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

According to the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan “About Passports” (Article 3) - the passport of the citizen of the Republic of Azerbaijan is the document confirming the citizen's right to enter into the country.

According to the Migration Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan: (Article 9, Clause 1) A citizen of the Republic of Azerbaijan (hereinafter referred to as the “citizen”) shall have a right to exit and enter the Republic of Azerbaijan freely by crossing its state border checkpoints. (Article 9, Clause 2) The citizen cannot be deprived the right to exit and enter the country.

The preamble of the federal law of the Russian Federation “On the Procedure for Exiting and Entering the Russian Federation” states: Everyone shall be free to leave the boundaries of the Russian Federation.

The procedure for the exit of foreign citizens from the Russian Federation during the spread of the COVID-19 virus has not changed compared to the norms and procedure previous to the pandemic.

Therefore, it can be deduced from the above-mentioned national and international laws and norms that the actions of the Azerbaijani and Russian authorities are illegal and lead to the needless suffering of thousands of people who became hostages of the circumstances and of the ineffective crisis management of the Azerbaijani and Russian state institutions.

In order help the migrants that ended up in this difficult situation, caring people began to collect donations, but the funds raised are not even closely sufficient to pay for the services of lawyers and professional consultants who could at least somehow help these migrants.

We believe that all the costs for restoring the rights of the affected migrants and decently compensating them should be borne first of all by the Azerbaijani authorities, through the fault of which these citizens have been waiting for months now to be allowed to return to their homeland.

The Russian authorities must also indemnify for material and moral damage all those subjected to police violence during the dispersal of the June 15 protest. 
We also call on the Russian authorities to release all 10 Azerbaijani citizens from pre-trial detention, as these individuals had no intention of violating the laws of the Russian Federation and also, to withdraw, in good faith, all unfairly initiated criminal charges, allowing them to return to their homes.

We urge the Azerbaijani authorities to allow entry into the country to all the Azerbaijani citizens who, by their own means arrived at the land border, and remove all illegal restrictions on entering against their citizens.

We also call on the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure the evacuation of all Azerbaijani citizens who wish to return from far abroad to their home country, and use the full potential of the state airline AZAL to do so.

Turning to all of you, we ask that, within the framework of your mandates, you urgently respond to this humanitarian and legal crisis and provide a timely assistance to the Azerbaijani citizens at the border, in order to insure their return to their homeland and to their loved ones.


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