A leading Armenian Diaspora charity is subsidizing, for a second consecutive month, housing expenses of hundreds of ethnic Armenians from Syria who have taken refuge in Armenia and are struggling to make ends meet.
Officials at the Yerevan office of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) said on Friday that they provided last month between 40,000 and 60,000 drams ($100-150) in financial assistance to some 220 Syrian Armenian families renting apartments. They said they have received more than 200 applications for such aid this month.
The applications are processed by an 11-member panel that consists of mostly Syrian-born AGBU officials. According to Aruzh Yesayan, head of the task force, the scheme is designed for socially vulnerable families that struggle to pay rent in Yerevan. This is why, he said, Syrian nationals who rent expensive apartments in the city center, own property or have well-paid jobs in Armenia are not eligible for the assistance.
“In general, if a person is employed, we treat them a bit more strictly,” Yesayan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Marine Aleshai, her husband and son are among the beneficiaries of the AGBU scheme. They received 60,000 drams in October to pay half of their apartment rent.
The family has rented a one-bedroom apartment in Yerevan since fleeing Syria in August. In Aleshai’s words, her 60-year husband and young son have still not found permanent employment. “We are unemployed for the first time in our lives,” she said.
“We are running out of savings and have to sell personal jewelry to get by,” another middle-aged woman told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) as she applied for housing aid at the AGBU office.
According to government estimates, there are currently about 5,000 Syrian citizens of Armenian descent living in Armenia. There were an estimated 80,000 Armenians in Syria before the outbreak of bloody unrest in the Middle Eastern state.
The AGBU, which is headquartered in New York, announced in August that it has set aside $1 million for humanitarian assistance to the Syrian Armenians. Other Armenian institutions and individuals are also making efforts to help the struggling community. In particular, the Echmiadzin-based Mother See of the Armenian Apostolic Church donated $200,000 to its Syrian diocese last month.
Also, leaders of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, an influential party with branches in all major Diaspora communities, have sent three planeloads of humanitarian aid to the war-ravaged city of Aleppo as part of a relief effort launched in September.
An Armenian cargo plane carrying the latest 15-ton batch of food supplies had to land and be searched for weapons in the eastern Turkish city of Erzurum on Thursday. The Antonov-12 plane was allowed to continue on its way after Turkish security services confirmed that it had no cargo that could be used by the Syrian military.