To prevent a refugee crisis, we must stop the thing that makes refugees in the first place .
The region of Nagorno-Karbakh, recognized under international law as part of Azerbaijan, erupted in violence last week killing 23 people. Since then the death toll has reportedly increased to several hundred deaths and civilian casualties. The region has been hotly contested among Azerbaijani and Armenian actors since the 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Though both countries agreed to a ceasefire agreement in 1994, as recently as 2016 several dozen people were killed after fighting erupted in the region.
The civilian cost
Out of 145,000 people who live in the Nagorno-Karbakh region, Azerbaijan has reported that 19 civilians have been killed and 60 have been wounded by the fighting. Al Jazeera reported that those who have been internally displaced are seeking safety in public buildings and sheltering in bunkers. Several journalists have also been injured. This all from only a week into the conflict.
The international response
The European Union, France, Russia, Iran, the United States and even the Vatican have all come forward to express their desire for peace negotiations in the region. But both Azerbaijan and Armenia have rejected calls for peace. Karabkh leader Arayik Haratyunyan even made a public statement on Wednesday to “prepare for a long-term war.” Turkey has repeatedly made clear its support for Azerbaijan, stoking the flames of an already potentially explosive situation.
With Europe already entrenched in a battle to provide for an ever-burgeoning number of refugees and the reported number of refugees worldwide reaching over 79 million, the last thing the world needs is more displaced people. More suffering. More people in need of basic resources. Especially in light of a global pandemic, where resources are precious.
Western powers must act swiftly to broker a decisive peace deal for Azerbaijan and Armenia despite partisan efforts from international actors. Our global population depends on it.