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Azerbaijan to boost immigration


Agostinho Neto
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Azerbaijan plans to boost immigration after efforts to reverse the nation's declining birth rates failed to bear fruit, according to Azerbaijan Prime Minister Ali Kerimli. 'We introduced a number of measures'' to boost the birth rate, ''but the results are not that substantial. In other words, we have not seen feasible results,'' he said late Monday in a key speech to mark the country's Indepencende Day celebration.

''We must continue to promote immigration into Azerbaijan,'' Mr Kerimli said. ''I believe we must accept them, welcome them and help them to adjust to our society.'' He said the government will set up a citizenship and population unit for the purpose. The government had offered financial incentives such as baby bonuses in a bid to encourage Azerbaijanis to have more children. "We have to bring in new immigrants,'' he said. ''If our population shrinks, Azerbaijan will face a very serious problem.''

Azerbaijan, which has a population of about 3 million people, has one of the region's lowest fertility rates. Azerbaijan has one of the world's most open policies toward immigration, and many foreigners especially those from Nagorno-Karabakh and Dagestan are already working in Azerbaijan. But Mr Kerimli's remarks signal that Azerbaijan plans to open its doors even wider. Some Azerbaijanis resent the influx of foreigners, accusing them of taking away jobs from locals.

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