Armenia In Decline: Outflow of citizens continues to threaten domestic future

Experts in the migration field warn that the outflow of people searching either permanent residence or employment opportunities abroad has reached a disastrous scale in Armenia.

According to the National Statistical Service, 108,005 people left within the last quarter (June-September) who did not return. (In total, 1,888,165 people departed from Armenia during June-September and 1,780,160 arrived.)

Migration expert, demographer Ruben Yeganyan says the official data are the evidence of the disastrous state in terms of immigration from Armenia.

“Moral-psychological reasons for immigration have become more prominent recently. People point out not only the social-economic hardship, but also the moral-psychological state of things in the country, as well as the fact that there is no tendency of improvement, recuperation,” Yeganyan told ArmeniaNow. “The country needs systematic reforms. The political, social, economic systems are in need of fundamental changes.”

He says people mostly go to Russia, while those who travel to Europe, mostly go there seeking permanent residency.

“The situation in European countries is a bit different from Russia. If they go to Europe that means they have intentions to stay permanently, naturally violating the migration code, because in the majority of cases they travel as tourists, not immigrant visa holders, and start the acquisition process of residency and employment permissions,” he says.

Tatevik Bejanyan, People in Need NGO’s migration project manager, says presenting some statistics, that the highest rates of migration (73 percent) from Armenia is for Russia, then comes the United States, the Ukraine and other countries. The lowest rates come for the Netherlands, Belarus, Turkey, Belgium and Georgia.

Of the migrants, 77 percent are men. The youngest age range is 26-35 (30 percent), then 46-55, the lowest percentage is in the 36-45 range. “Labor migrants mostly have only secondary education, some have vocational education, less people go with higher education,” she says.

Yeganyan says, in any case, immigrants become a burden for the country they migrate to, however sometimes they prove to be useful – they do the kind of jobs the citizens of the given country don’t and help solve the demographic issues especially in Western countries.

“Europe’s condition is rather grave, because not only Armenians but natives of many other countries go there – from Africa, third class countries – and make things difficult for the given country. People go and get residency permit by some means, then become public charges (gets social protection), which implies certain expenses for the given state. Those countries assume responsibility to provide housing, ensure certain living conditions, which is a real burden,” says the expert.

Bejanyan says remittances to Armenia make 20 percent of its GDP, 80 percent of the households receiving the remittances spend its 90 percent on daily expenses, future investments, tuition, special events (weddings, funerals, etc), but avoid saving money in banks.

Would those who have left return should things get better in Armenia?

“Leaving is one thing, returning is another. When you go and have some achievements, leaving all that and returning is not easy – I can’t imagine what guarantees there have to be to make people come back, they’d think ten times before taking such a step. Many such attempts have been made, when people did return, but were forced to leave again embittered. And every such failure story finds large resonance, once again disappointing others,” says Yeganyan. “Our population is depleting, we are becoming an army republic, with the current state of things we can’t go on and survive repeatedly incurring big losses.”