Nine Syrian nationals remained stranded at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport for a third day on Wednesday after being refused Armenian visas on the grounds that they failed to prove their ethnic Armenian origin.
Syria is one those countries whose citizens can receive Armenian visas only from Armenian diplomatic missions abroad. Armenia’s government last month allowed Syrians of Armenian descent fleeing the Middle Eastern state to get visas at Zvartnots and other Armenian border crossings. They are required to present immigration officers with documentary evidence of their Armenian ethnicity in addition to their Syrian passports.
According to the Armenian police, Leyla Miro, a Syrian Arab woman married to an ethnic Armenian, her two daughters married to Arab men and five grandchildren produced no such proof when they arrived in Yerevan from Istanbul on Monday. A police statement issued on Wednesday said immigration authorities were therefore right not to issue visas to them.
The family’s Yerevan-based relatives angrily rejected this explanation, saying that they fled Syria in haste and were physically unable to obtain documents required by the Armenian authorities. “Their town is close to the Turkish border,” one of the relatives, Emma Poghosian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “They fled Syria immediately after one of the kids was kidnapped and then brought back.”
“[Miro’s] three sons live and study in Armenia and have Armenian passports,” said Poghosian. “Her two daughters are now told that they are not Armenians. But they both have an Armenian surname: Hendian.”
One of their brothers, Mesrop Hendian, is currently in Germany. Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service by phone, Hendian said the Armenian Embassy in Damascus certified the family’s Armenian origin in a letter that was sent to Yerevan after the nine Syrians were detained at Zvartnots. Nevertheless, he said, they have decided to fly back to Turkey on Thursday.
According to government data, nearly 2,000 Syrian Armenians have taken refuge in Armenia over the past year.