Armenia’s government discussed a growing influx of ethnic Armenians from Syrian on Thursday as dozens of people protested in Yerevan against what they regard as its failure to properly deal with the “repatriation.”
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s cabinet discussed the matter at a weekly meeting. A government press release issued after the meeting said nothing about that discussion.
Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian told journalists that Sarkisian issued “instructions” to immigration authorities and other relevant state agencies. He did not elaborate on those orders, saying only that “their results will become visible soon.”
Tovmasian also said that the government will hold a follow-up meeting next week on the fate of a growing number of Syrian Armenians fleeing violence in their country and taking refuge in Armenia.
The Armenian community in Syria numbers an estimated 60,000-80,000 members. According to the Armenian police, some 6,000 Syrian nationals of Armenian descent have applied for Armenian citizenship since the outbreak of deadly unrest there in early 2011.
Hundreds of them are believed to have already relocated to Armenia. Many are now struggling to adapt to life in their ancestral homeland that has been plagued with high unemployment and other grave socioeconomic problems since the Soviet collapse.
As the Armenian cabinet discussed the mounting refugee inflow several dozen people demonstrated outside the prime minister’s office in Yerevan to demand greater government assistance to the Syrian Armenians. In a petition addressed to the government, they said Yerevan should adopt a comprehensive program on the “repatriation” of ethnic Armenians from Syria and other nations.
“Many Armenian families want to return to the homeland. However, in effect our authorities have taken no steps in that direction,” said Davit Khosrovian of the Hayazn pressure group that organized the protest.
The small crowd comprised a group of Syrian Armenians. One of them, Andranik Vartanian, moved to Armenia with his close relatives early this year. He said they have since lived at his Yerevan-based aunt’s apartment.
“If the Armenian state helps us with housing and employment, that would be good not only for Syrian Armenians but also Armenia,” the 17-year-old RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). In that case, Vartanian said, they would find it much easier to set up businesses and themselves create jobs in the country.
The protesters also urged the government to ensure that Armenia’s national airline, Armavia, increases the frequency of its Yerevan-Aleppo flights and lowers their cost.
Armavia suspended the weekly flights in March but resumed them on July 9 with the stated aim of helping Armenians leave Syria. Syria’s national airline also flies to Armenia on a weekly basis.