YEREVAN (Public Radio of Armenia) — The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) welcomes the receptive approach both the Government of Armenia and the overwhelming majority of the Armenian population have taken in receiving persons displaced due to the conflict in Syria seeking protection in Armenia, according to Christoph Bierwirth, the UNHCR representative in Armenia.
Since the start of the conflict in Syria, Armenia has welcomed more than 22,000 persons, primarily of ethnic Armenian background. While some of them have moved on to other countries, serving as migrant workers in the Gulf states, having made use of resettlement opportunities or united with family members elsewhere, the UNHCR estimates that about 15,000 displaced persons continue to stay and UNHCR notes with appreciation the significant progress many families where able to make towards achieving self-reliance and integration into the Armenian society.
“The highly developed service culture, diligence and quality of work of the displaced businessmen and workers has brought fresh energy to the Armenian economy and society and contributes to their development” emphasized Bierwirth, adding that “this fits very well, the new directions of the government as to the economic development of the country giving increased attention to small and medium size enterprises and the development of the tourist sector.”
UNHCR has also noted with appreciation that Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan has repeatedly and publicly acknowledged the value of the displaced population for Armenian economic development, sending a clear message of welcome to the population.
Despite all progress made there are still challenges and more needs to be done to successfully conclude the multifaceted integration process, UNHCR says. Some families, in particular those consisting of elderly, single headed households or students or having family members with disabilities face more problems in their integration, given constraints in their ability to work, limited number of job opportunities and low wages.
In addition to persons displaced due to the conflict in Syria seeking protection in Armenia, the country faces other displacement challenges. Among the over 360,000 persons who were displaced between 1988 and 1992 in context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, some 2,000 have not yet availed themselves to the opportunity of naturalization in Armenian and remain de jure refugees.