UN Report Warns Of ‘New Wave’ of Emigration from Armenia


YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia is being warned that it faces “a new wave of emigration” unless the government does more to improve the socioeconomic situation and strengthen the rule of law.

The warning came in a report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) presented this week.

The report — drawn up by local migration experts — called for wide-ranging government measures, including democratic reform, that would “considerably reduce the motivation of Armenia’s population to leave the country.”

At least 700,000 Armenians, or about one-quarter of the country’s population, are believed to have emigrated to Russia and other countries since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the resulting turmoil in the region.

The outflow slowed significantly in the 1990s as the Armenian economy began recovering from its post-Soviet slump.

“However, despite the aforementioned process, the external migration situation in Armenia still remains alarming,” the report
says. “Moreover, there are certain factors that give reason to assume that a new, rather massive wave of emigration may emerge.”

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The report says tens of thousands of Armenian men working abroad might eventually reunite with their families and cause Armenia to “lose another 200,000-300,000 citizens.”

It says another factor that could drive emigration is the ongoing concentration of agricultural land in the hands of wealthy individuals.

The report acknowledges an economic benefit of emigration in the form of cash remittances sent home by hundreds of thousands of Armenian migrant workers mainly based in Russia, Europe and the United States.

According to the Armenian Central Bank, those transfers totaled $1.12 billion last year — equivalent to nearly 13 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

But it also says emigration has had a number of detrimental effects, including decreased birth and marriage rates and a brain drain.

Accordingly, the report stresses the need for “active intervention” by the state aimed at “limiting the volume of permanent emigration.”

It says that should be done through improving not only economic conditions but “governance practices” in the country. More  specifically, that should mean “the adoption and restoration of democratic values in governance practice and the elimination of double standards,” according to the report.

“Most state officials are inclined to blame [the emigration] on socioeconomic causes such as unemployment,” says Vartan Gevorgian, a sociologist who led a team of Armenian experts working on the report. “But at the end of the day, people become poor not just because of a loss of income but also because of being unable to defend their rights…because of weak property guarantees.”

Speaking during a public presentation of the report, Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgian said its findings and proposals would be “useful” for government officials dealing with migration. Gevorgian also said that the Armenian government was committed to finding “effective and radical solutions” to the problem and was currently working on a strategy of “state regulation
of migration.”

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