Help azerbaijani migrants return home during COVID19 pandemic

This fundraising campaign will allow me and my colleagues (professional lawyers, human rights activists, journalists and doctors) to provide humanitarian, legal and consultancy assistance to our compatriots who, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, have been unable to return to their homeland as the Azerbaijan authorities have been refusing to let them cross the border for several months. Some of these migrants have been arrested for demanding the respect of their right to return to Azerbaijan. They urgently need assistance in order to hire lawyers and insure their release. In the text below you can find more details on the subject in Azerbaijani, Russian and English.


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Dear compatriots, the global covid-19 pandemic has brought a lot of grief to each of us. This terrible disease began taking away our loved ones prematurely, we started losing jobs and increasingly lacking resources for our livelihood.

Among the most affected by this situation are the Azerbaijani migrant workers living abroad, as well as students enrolled in foreign educational institutions. Today, many of them want to return to their homeland; instead they were met with lawlessness and rights violations at the border. This is why they need urgent help. The state authorities of Azerbaijan left its citizens living abroad to their fate. Nevertheless, together we can help our compatriots. This is our civic duty, especially since it is migrant workers, who, over the years have contributed to improving the well-being of Azerbaijan.

The new coronavirus pandemic completely changed our life, in which we were already met with many difficulties. Even for those of us who live in Azerbaijan, in our own homes, it has been difficult to get used to the new reality caused by the harsh quarantine conditions that have been imposed for several months and are fraught with arbitrariness and human rights violation.

In Azerbaijan, ineffective governance, as well as the collapse of the already weak healthcare system, has put the entire population in difficult survival conditions. Given that it is often fruitless to wait for help from the state many have to rely only on themselves and their loved ones.

However, it’s the migrant workers who are now in an unbearable situation. In Russia, where the economy is in the most severe crisis of the last 20 years, thousands of workers lost their jobs. Having no basic means for further residence in Russia, thousands of our compatriots were forced to return to Azerbaijan, where they hoped to wait out the end of the global pandemic at a lower cost and risk.

Azerbaijan and Russia, like many other countries, decided to stop, in March of this year, the international air and rail travel in order to minimize the spread of the covid-19 virus. Thousands of destitute Azerbaijani citizens from all over the vast territory of Russia traveled by any means available to them to the land border between the two countries, where in droves they faced paradoxical lawlessness: most notably the interdiction to enter their homeland. In violation of the Constitution of Azerbaijan and the European Convention on Human Rights, the Azerbaijani authorities denied entry in Azerbaijan to their own citizens, making them go through numerous illegal obstacles and red tape.

The rash and illegal actions of the Azerbaijani authorities led to the accumulation of thousands of Azerbaijani migrants on the Azerbaijani-Russian border. For several months now, about 400 people have been forced to live under the open sky, and about 600 people are huddled in tented camps, where unbearable and unsanitary conditions reign.

The hospitable and good-natured local residents of Derbent, Makhachkala and other Dagestan settlements closest to the border are now sheltering thousands of our compatriots in their homes. The financial support for our citizens was also provided by local authorities and well-known businessmen from Moscow, among who were immigrants from the northern regions of Azerbaijan and the southern regions of Russia. Due to the daily increase in the number of Azerbaijani migrants arriving at the land checkpoints on the Azerbaijani-Russian border, discontent among those who wanted to cross the border but were unable to, grew. On June 15, about 500 desperate Azerbaijani citizens, dissatisfied with the way their situation was handled, and namely the fact that they had not been allowed to return to their homeland for several months and kept in difficult unsanitary conditions, have started a peaceful protest by blocking the Caucasus federal highway. Russian law enforcement brutally suppressed the spontaneous protest by using excessive force against protesters; women, children and the elderly were also hit and even beaten with police batons. On many video footage circling the Russian, Azerbaijani and international media, shots from automatic firearms can be heard. There is also footage where unconscious Azerbaijani citizens are almost choking on their own blood. Information is also circulating on social media alleging that several protesters have been beaten to death. Their bodies were transported on ambulances to Azerbaijan the next day, but so far the identities of the alleged victims have not been established or made public. Russian and Azerbaijani authorities are silent on this issue.

Following the suppression of the protest rally, a total of about 200 Azerbaijani citizens have counted injuries of varying degrees of severity. About 80 beaten citizens were laid next to each other, face down and left for several hours, after which they were brought to various police stations and sentenced to 15 days administrative arrests.

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation stated that as a result of the protest, which resulted in riots on the territory of the village of Kullar, Derbent district of the Republic of Dagestan, nine policemen on duty were injured and five official vehicles were damaged at the estimated cost of 400,000 rubles. A criminal case was opened against 10 Azerbaijani citizens detained during the protest. They were charged under the second part of Article 318 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (The use of violence endangering the lives or health of a representative of the authority, or his relatives, in connection with the discharge by his official duties), as well as the first part of Article 167 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Willful destruction or damage of other people's property, if these acts involved the infliction of considerable damage). The following young Azerbaijani citizens have already been arrested  and put in detention for a period of two months: Agayev Nahid Rahman oglu (born 1980), Akhmedov Elbrus Idris oglu (born 1983), Huseynov Rovshan Arif oglu (born 1988), Giyasov Tural Nazim oglu (born 1996), Namazov Jeykhun Arzu oglu (born 1999), Imamaliev Emin Sahib oglu (born 1999), Musaev Elmar Magomed oglu (born 1990), Mehdiyev Elmar Heydar oglu (born 1990), Muradov Anvar Burzhul oglu (born 1990), Ferekzade Aziz Afgan oglu (born 1994). If they are found guilty, they risk up to 10 years imprisonment, each.

All detained Azerbaijani citizens, both on criminal and administrative charges, were deprived of effective legal protection.

Thousands of Azerbaijani citizens held hostage by circumstances need help to return home. Many of them initially did not even ask for means of transportation  to evacuate them, they came to the land borders at their own expense and have now been hopelessly waiting for months to be allowed to cross into their homeland.

The actions of the Azerbaijani authorities violate all conceivable legal and moral standards. Moreover, they led to the creation of ghetto-like settlements, where our compatriots are forced to live in unsanitary conditions, degrading to their honor and dignity. Women are particularly affected. Among the migrants living in the tented camps, the number of people with intestinal and skin infection diseases increases every day; and that is aside from the ever-present and increasing risk of the spread of covid-19.

Currently, about 700.000 officially registered migrant workers from Azerbaijan live in Russia and at least as many leave there as seasonal workers. Over the past 20 years, Azerbaijani workers in Russia have transferred a total of about 50 billion US dollars to their families at home, making a huge contribution to improving the welfare of their country.

Today, hardworking people who have contributed to the prosperity of their homeland want only one thing: to return to their families and to their homes. Neither the local nor the international law prohibits citizens from returning to their countries. Having an Azerbaijani passport gives its owner the absolute right to return home without hindrance, especially if that person has reached the border himself and is waiting to be allowed entry in Azerbaijan. Russian border guards also do not have the legal right to detain Azerbaijani citizens against their will and, at least, should not stop them from exiting Russian territory to access the neutral territory between the borders with Azerbaijan. By blocking the passage of Azerbaijani citizens at the request of the Azerbaijani authorities, Russian authorities are becoming accomplices in the illegal actions of Azerbaijan against defenseless civilians.

Right now, we together, can alleviate the suffering of these people and help them return to their homes as quickly as possible.

Over the past two weeks, I, along with my colleagues from the civil society of Azerbaijan, have studied the current situation in search of solutions to the problem. We held two round tables at which participated representatives of independent media, civil society and democratic institutions.

After carefully studying the situation, we deduced that a fundraising campaign should be started in urgency in order to provide effective legal protection to the arrested Azerbaijani citizens. It is also necessary to ensure as soon as possible the operation of a hotline, through which legal, medical and other necessary consultations could be provided. We also need to ensure a constant presence of legal counsel, who could record and try to prevent all illegal actions against migrants who wish to return to their homeland.  

It is necessary to ensure impartial and objective monitoring on the ground in order to timely identify problems, the solutions to which will need to be implemented by the Russian and Azerbaijani authorities. It is also necessary to conduct a thorough objective investigation by independent representatives of the Azerbaijani and Russian civil society in order to urgently prepare a comprehensive report and recommendations that will be submitted to the International Organization for Migration, the International Labor Organization, and other relevant international organizations and Azerbaijani and Russian state institutions. The Russian and Azerbaijani authorities must ensure the unhindered work of journalists in order to objectively and impartially record the current difficult humanitarian situation on both sides of the border.

In case the two states do not stop violating the right and freedom of Azerbaijani citizens allowing them to return to their homeland, after receiving the report and recommendations, we will assemble an international team of lawyers to challenge the actions of the Azerbaijani and Russian authorities in the European Court of Human Rights, which is the highest court for all countries, members of the Council of Europe, including Azerbaijan and Russia.

I and many of my colleagues have a vast experience in the domain of the protection of human rights, also involving relevant and competent representatives of the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the UN in solving these types of problems. Over the past two weeks, my colleagues and I have been doing everything in our power to help our fellow citizens solve their problems, but without additional financial and human resources we cannot achieve effective results in time. Through common effort, we, the citizens of Azerbaijan, living inside the country and beyond its borders, can help, restore the right of our fellow citizens, turned powerless hostages by the arbitrariness of the Azerbaijani and Russian authorities, to freely return home.

Today, we are all living through difficult times. Nonetheless, each of us can, within our capabilities, make a voluntary financial donation and share this appeal on our social media pages. Even the smallest action from each of us will help restore the right of the Azerbaijani citizens to return home without hindrance and also protect those who are in danger of losing their freedom for demanding respect of their legitimate right.

The threat of the new coronavirus will unlikely disappear in the next 12 months, or at least until an effective vaccine is created and massively distributed around the globe.

Migrants will remain one of the most vulnerable groups of society. For the sake of our common well-being and prosperity, all of us should show solidarity and apply effective anti-crisis measures in order to solve this situation in which we found ourselves for the first time.

July 1, 2020

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