Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakobian said on Friday that her ministry will propose next year a set of government measures to encourage many ethnic Armenians living abroad to relocate to Armenia.
“We plan preparatory works on repatriation in 2018,” Hakobian told journalists. “We are going to draw up a policy concept, look into other countries’ experience and draft a law on repatriation.”
“We have to be able to present Armenia’s opportunities: what we can offer them, what kind of specialists we need to invite,” she said. “If they are the kind of specialists that are needed by Armenia … we have to think about paying them appropriate wages and creating other conditions that would attract them. I don’t think that patriotism alone can drive repatriation.”
President Serzh Sarkisian made a case for such mass immigration in a speech delivered at an Armenia-Diaspora conference held in Yerevan in September. He said it would help the country address its grave demographic problems and increase its population to 4 million by 2040.
There are an estimated 8 million to 9 million ethnic Armenians around the world. Only up to 3 million of them live in Armenia. Most of the others reside in Russia, the United States, Europe and the Middle East.
Throughout Sarkisian’s decade-long rule, scores of Armenia’s citizens have continued to leave their country for primarily economic reasons. Opposition politicians and other critics of the Armenian government blame the emigration on what they see as the Sarkisian administration’s failed economic policies and unwillingness to enforce the rule of law. Not surprisingly, they have dismissed his demographic target for 2040 as a gimmick.
Hakobian suggested that the extremely ambitious target is based on “appropriate calculations.” She also said that thousands of Armenian nationals as well as Diaspora Armenians immigrate to Armenia each year. She further argued that more than 20,000 Syrian nationals of Armenian origin have taken refuge in their ancestral homeland in the last few years.
“A few months ago I invited repats to our ministry and 120 of them came over,” the minister said. “I expected to hear criticism and complaints from them, but to my surprise they all have adapted [to Armenia] well.”
“They were emphasizing that the main advantage of the homeland is that it’s safe here, that their children do not risk drug addiction, debauchery and other things in our schools,” she added.
As well as announcing the planned launch of the immigration promotion effort, Hakobian noted that she does not know yet whether she will be reappointed to a new Armenian government that will be formed after Sarkisian’s final presidential term ends in April 2018.