A government official in Yerevan in charge of links with Armenian communities abroad has shared concerns about migration tendencies observed in the country recently, but effectively downplayed the mounting talk about an impending ‘national disaster’.
A group of Armenian scholars recently addressed an open letter to the country’s political leadership urging immediate action on what they view as a dangerous trend affecting the economy and putting at risk Armenia’s credentials as a nation.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Hranush Hakobian, the minister for the Diaspora, acknowledged that for the first time in at least the past three years Armenia has been losing some of its population because of emigration.
The official attributed it mainly to the heavy social and economic conditions that some Armenians face in their home country. Still, she expressed the opinion that most Armenians leaving the country, especially those going to Russia, were temporary migrant workers who planned to return home in the future.
“They leave Armenia not forever; they seek jobs to maintain their families that stay here,” said Hakobian.
At the same time, Hakobian, who has run the ministry set up in 2008 with the main mission of maintaining and developing ties with the far-flung Armenian Diaspora, suggested that critics of the Armenian government, especially those living abroad, should take practical steps to assist in solving social and economic problems in Armenia, such as through investing and creating jobs.
“It is simply necessary to work to reduce emigration,” stressed Hakobian. “Our objective is to boost immigration, and today we also see tendencies of people coming to Armenia for permanent residence.”
The first wave of emigration hit Armenia soon after the country became independent in 1991. It continued throughout the early post-Soviet years amid a severe energy crisis and deadly hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh. Some 800,000 of Armenia’s estimated 3.8-million-strong population are believed to have abandoned the country during that period. Although at a slower pace, but emigration continued also through the years of economic recovery when Armenia enjoyed a double-digit GDP growth for most of the 2000s.
Recent official figures reported in Armenia indicate that nearly 80,000 people have left the country, supposedly for good, in the past three years. The opposition and some media critical of the government have speculated that the number of emigrants during the indicated period may have reached several hundred thousand.
Addressing the issue in May, head of the State Migration Service Gagik Yeganian denied Armenia experienced any significant increase in the negative balance of migration in recent years.
Armenia is due to have a census of the population later this year. The previous census taken in 2001 estimated the South Caucasus state’s permanent population at around 3.2 million.