Immigration authorities in Yerevan said on Tuesday that they have started considering a request for political asylum lodged by an Azerbaijani family that crossed into Armenia via Georgia last week.
Azerbaijani citizen Javid Orujev, his wife Roya Mirzoyeva and three children entered the country through the main Georgian-Armenian border crossing several months after being reportedly deported back to Azerbaijan from Europe.
According to Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS), Orujev claimed to have been harassed by and forced to spy for Azerbaijani intelligence because of Mirzoyeva’s ethnic Armenian origin. The 38-year-old is said to have told the NSS that he had unsuccessfully sought political asylum in a European state for that reason.
The NSS said on Tuesday that the family is now being kept at an undisclosed location in Yerevan. The security agency refused to give further details, citing security considerations.
Armenia’s State Migration Service (SMS) said, meanwhile, that it is already considering the asylum request. The head of the government agency, Gagik Yeganian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that it is specifically looking into “persecution” alleged by Orujev. Yeganian insisted that the absence of diplomatic relations and other inter-governmental contact with Azerbaijan will not prevent the immigration authorities from establishing the veracity of the allegations that are likely to be dismissed by Azerbaijani officials.
Day.az, a pro-governmental Azerbaijani news service, quoted Orujev’s mother as saying over the weekend that the family was never harassed by the Azerbaijani authorities. She said her son is simply keen to emigrate to Europe through Armenia.
Kenan Guluzade, the editor of “The Baku Post” newspaper, said there has also been speculation in Azerbaijan that Orujev was recruited in Europe by Armenian intelligence officers for propaganda purposes. “The situation is unclear,” Guluzade told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) from Baku. “Whether the family was indeed in serious trouble or that is the work of the Armenian or Azerbaijani special services is hard to tell.”