Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian called on Wednesday for greater international assistance to thousands of Syrian citizens of Armenian descent that have taken refuge in Armenia in the last five years.
“About 20.000 refugees from Syria have sought protection in Armenia, making our country the third largest per-capita recipient of Syrian refugees in Europe. This is a considerable number for a country of just 3 million,” Nalbandian told a ministerial conference in Geneva organized by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.
“Our own experience tells us that the humanitarian situations of this magnitude require synergy of efforts and cannot be addressed by any state alone,” he said. “This is true for every refugee-hosting country, but probably more so for a country with limited resources.
“We would like to tell the international donor community that the commitment to assist countries sheltering refugees should not be conditioned only by their geographic location, but rather should be based on the principle of more equitable responsibility sharing.”
“Armenia will certainly continue to make its utmost to take care of the Syrians who have found refuge in our country. We will appreciate assistance to Armenia to address the urgent humanitarian needs of refugees from Syria and pave avenues towards their integration,” added Nalbandian.
According to Armenian government estimates, more than 16,000 Syrian Armenians currently live in Armenia. Most of them are struggling to survive in a country that has long suffered from high unemployment.
Armenia’s government has greatly facilitated their naturalization through a range of legislative and administrative measures. But it is too cash-strapped to provide them with free housing or offer other significant economic benefits. Foreign governments and international donor agencies have also provided little economic aid to the Syrian refugees in Armenia to date.
The European Union’s foreign and security policy chief, Federica Mogherini, discussed with Nalbandian “integration of Syrian refugees” when she visited Yerevan early this month. “The European Union is considering whether it can support Armenia in this respect, including through the EU Trust Fund that was established to address the crisis,” Mogherini said after the talks.