More than 100 Syrian nationals studying at universities in Armenia received government scholarships on Friday in what Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian called the latest in a series of measures to help thousands of ethnic Armenian refugees from Syria.
The assistance totaling 40 million drams (about $100,000) will allow them to pay most of their tuition fees in the current academic year.
Sarkisian handed the students scholarship certificates at a ceremony held in his office. “We will constantly stand by your side and you will objectively see state assistance,” he said. “Our meeting today is one proof of that.”
The recipients of financial support enrolled in Armenian universities both before and after the outbreak of the bloody conflict in Syria. Some of them took refuge in their ancestral homeland jut a few months ago, together with thousands of other Syrians of Armenian descent.
According to Sarkisian, the total number of those refugees now stands at around 7,000. “Many of them planned to return to Syria some time later because they thought that it is possible to again see peace in their country soon,” he said. “But events developed under a different scenario and many of them today see their future in Armenia and think about having jobs and giving their children good education here.”
Sarkisian added that his government will use “numerous instruments” to help those Syrian Armenians settle in Armenia for good. “On the one hand, we are trying to help Syrian Armenians find jobs in Armenia or, if they want to, move their businesses to Armenia,” he said. “On the other hand, we are helping them take retraining courses if necessary.”
Many members of Syria’s 80,000-strong Armenian community own small and medium businesses in the Middle Eastern nation. It has therefore been suggested that some of them could set up shop in Armenia. However, Syrian Armenian entrepreneurs are clearly wary of doing business there, mindful of the country’s problematic business environment.
President Serzh Sarkisian last week met a group of such businesspeople and pledged to ensure favorable conditions for their possible operations. He also gave relevant instructions to government bodies in Yerevan.
Tigran Sarkisian announced on Thursday that the government is ready to offer tax breaks to those Syrian Armenians that would engage in trade or transfer their “material resources” to Armenia.
A government body tasked with supporting small business similarly expressed readiness in late November to give Syrian Armenians cheap credit. It said they can borrow, without collateral, up to 5 million drams ($12,350) each at a 5 percent interest rate set well below market-based levels.