Refugee-Hosting Country: Yerevan seeks international aid for Syrian Armenians

Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian has called for greater international assistance to thousands of Syrian-Armenians who have taken refuge in Armenia since the start of the conflict in Syria in 2011.

“About 20,000 refugees from Syria have sought protection in Armenia, on per capita basis making our country the third largest recipient of Syrian refugees in Europe. This is a considerable number for a country of just 3 million, which in the recent past has already sheltered hundreds of thousands fleeing from Azerbaijan,” Nalbandian said at a ministerial conference in Geneva organized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“Thus, we know what it means to be a refugee and to host considerable number of refugees and we certainly join this discussion with a strong sense of solidarity and responsibility,” the top Armenian diplomat added, as quoted by his press office.

Citing Armenia’s experience, Nalbnadian said that humanitarian situations of such a magnitude require “synergy of efforts and cannot be addressed by any one state alone.”

“This is true for every refugee-hosting country, but probably more so for a country with limited resources. We would like to draw the attention of 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, without any distinction, in the spirit of international protection regime for refugees,” he said.

“Armenia will certainly continue to make its utmost to take care of the Syrians who have found refuge in our country. We will appreciate the assistance to Armenia to address the urgent humanitarian needs of refugees from Syria and pave avenues towards local integration. To that end the Armenian Government has made relevant legislative changes facilitating the entry into the country, obtaining of the residency permit or citizenship, developing of the businesses, getting necessary medical assistance and emergency help free of charge, providing scholarships at universities to name but a few.”

The Armenian government estimates that more than 16,000 Syrian Armenians currently stay in Armenia. Many of them have encountered social and economic problems in a country that has a low-income economy and a high rate of unemployment.

Assistance to Armenians fleeing the conflict in Syria has also been rendered by the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), which is the world’s largest Armenian non-profit organization.

The AGBU community worldwide has recently raised $3.2 million in support of the AGBU Humanitarian Emergency Relief Fund for Syrian Armenians living both in Syria and restarting their lives abroad.

As part of the relief programs, clothes worth 155,000 Euros (about $175,000) granted by a French-Armenian family were provided to an aid coordinating center in Yerevan on March 30.