During the first years after regaining independence in 1991, the Republic of Azerbaijan faced with the emigration of a significant number of its nationals abroad. The root causes of this emigration were, on the one hand, hardships peculiar to the transition period, and, on the other hand, grave economic consequences of the aggression and consequent occupation of territories of Azerbaijan by neighbouring Armenia and the emergence of about one million refugees and IDPs. Later, due to the development of transport network and thanks to its geographical situation Azerbaijan started to assume the role of a transit country. At present, as a result of a rapid economic growth and the realization of a significant number of huge projects in the fields of energy, transport and others, Azerbaijan is being transformed into an attractive destination country for migrants.
Faced with many challenges of migration processes with their multiple facets, the Republic of Azerbaijan has taken important steps and carried out necessary reforms both at legislative and institutional levels to orderly manage these processes. The State Migration Policy Concept of the Republic of Azerbaijan, adopted in 2004, serves as the basis for these actions and it identifies core objectives to be achieved by relevant public agencies.
In order to put the State Migration Policy Concept into practice and reach the objectives contained therein, the State Migration Program of the Republic of Azerbaijan for 2006-2008 was approved by the Presidential Decree No. 1575 dated 25 July 2006. The State Migration Program provides for following main directions of action: improvement of migration management mechanisms; increasing efficiency of the state migration management; co-ordination of the activities by relevant public agencies; improvement of the legislative framework; introduction of quotas for labour migration; taking proper actions to prevent illegal migration; international cooperation with migration services of other countries as well as international organizations. In general, the State Migration Program is aimed at the establishment of state-of-the-art migration management system in Azerbaijan.
With a view to uniform implementation of state migration policy, improvement of the migration management system, and coordination of activities of relevant public agencies, State Migration Service of the Republic of Azerbaijan was established by the Presidential Decree No. 560 dated 19 March 2007.
So far more than 20 legislative acts related to migration issues have been adopted in Azerbaijan. In the context of protection of the rights and freedoms of migrants, the Republic of Azerbaijan has acceded to the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and Palermo Protocols related to trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants.
At the same time, important steps aimed at introduction of biometric identification have been taken in Azerbaijan to facilitate migration processes and to prevent illegal migration. Thus, a Task Force consisting of representatives of relevant state agencies has been set up, which developed the State Program on Biometric Identification in the Republic of Azerbaijan further endorsed by the Presidential Decree No. 1963 on 13 February 2007.
On 30 December 2011, a few amendments were made to the Law on National Identity Card of the Republic of Azerbaijan. These amendments, which will enter into force on 1 January 2014, provide for the introduction of identity cards furnished with electronic chips containing personal data. They further envisage lowering the age of persons eligible for getting ID cards to 15, the change of the period of validity of ID cards etc.
The main duties of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the migration management are following:
• to process visa applications of foreigners through the network of about 60 embassies and consulates of the Republic of Azerbaijan all over the world;
• to provide consular services to Azerbaijani citizens abroad;
• to keep the register of Azerbaijani citizens who live in foreign countries on a permanent or temporary basis;
• to promote and develop cooperation in the field of migration with international organizations and partner countries;
International Organization for Migration (IOM) is the key partner of the Government of Azerbaijan in the field of cooperation on migration. Though Azerbaijan became member of the IOM in 2001, IOM has been implementing various assistance and technical projects in Azerbaijan since 1996.
Furthermore, a number of activities are carried out in cooperation with the European Union and OSCE. Action Plan between Azerbaijan and the European Union adopted within the European Neighborhood Policy in November 2006 refers to a wide range of migration related issues including inter alia border management, migration management, asylum issues, prevention of illegal migration, dialogue on readmission matters, reintegration of returned migrants, visa facilitation. Special Inter-Governmental Task Force on the implementation of the migration-related activities of the Action Plan has been established.
Moreover, Azerbaijan has been negotiating with the EU draft agreements on readmission of persons and visa facilitation. It has also applied to the European Commission for the establishment of a Mobility Partnership.
Azerbaijan also explores the possibility of establishment and development of bilateral cooperation with a number of countries in the field of migration.